Saddle Creek | Cursive | Reviews


8 Teeth to Eat You

Author: Mark Skipper
06/21/2002 | Lost at Sea | | Album Review
I always imagine that Tim Kasher- singer, songwriter, and guitarist for Cursive- leads an immaculately sordid life, overflowing at the brim with debauchery. His body of work seems to suggest that life is throwing him more than his share of curveballs, regardless of whether or not he brings them upon himself. For some time now Kasher has been painting portraits of characters fraught with drunkenness, involved in lecherous affairs, and moping pitifully over their lost and ruined relationships. If there is any truth to the classic adage that a writer's best material is produced when he writes about what he knows best, then it would appear that Kasher is surrounded by people teetering on the brink of emotional breakdown on a daily basis, so it comes as no surprise that the Cursive front man has been spinning some very similar yarns over the band's last few releases.

The most important question facing Cursive as a group, however, is figuring out how to follow up a critically acclaimed album such as Cursive's Domestica was. Rather than stepping right back up to the plate with a follow-up album, Kasher and Co. elected to release an EP entitled Burst and Bloom, and then make his side project, The Good Life, an almost full-time gig by releasing their second LP this year and following it up with a full-scale tour as well. And yet again Cursive balks on throwing us another LP, choosing instead to team up with Japan's Eastern Youth for a split EP and subsequent tour. It's at this time that Kasher has to go and back the cement mixer up to my brain's fanciful notion of his behavior by suffering a collapsed lung in a warm up date in Portland, Oregon on June 10th, causing the cancellation of Cursive's tour and leaving us with only this disc as a testament to what would have been. While we all wish Tim a fast and full recovery - Saddle Creek's website is asking for donations to help cover the cost of Kasher's medical bills, because he, like most musicians, has no medical insurance - we must get down to the business at hand.

Unfortunately, for every musical step forward Cursive seems to have made over the last few releases including this one, Kasher's lyrics have been taking two steps back. The once- philosophical and thought- provoking lyricist seems to continue to be dredging the same unrequited and bleak lost love channel, just as he has done since the release of Domestica. The band has now added Gretta Cohn as an official member, and the vicious cello line that opens the EP's first track, "Excerpts From Various Notes Strewn Around the Bedroom of April Connolly Feb 24, 1997" is a welcome addition to the band's sound. The problem is that the lyrics, which are Kasher's typical confessional, narrative, un-metered and un-poetic prose, are still tackling the same issues that were fully explored in the thematic cycle that Domestica managed to pull-off. The lyrics are beginning to feel as if they are merely cliches of themselves, even though Kasher's unique delivery, a full on piercing trebly wail, make them feel as burdened, hard hitting, and gut wrenching as ever. Without fitting into any thematic context though, the incestuous tale that riddles "May Flowers" causes lines like, "I colored this picture for you/ A little girl crying in her room/ Her mom's just outside the door holding her head" seem as bad, if not worse than what any eighteen year old emo songwriter is scribbling in their notepad these days.

Japan's Eastern Youth has been together, albeit with a different bass player, since 1989. These guys have had time to soak up a lot of influences, and it shows. Their U.S. tour with At the Drive-In obviously infected their sound, causing them to blend the more heavy, yet melodic bits that A.T.D.I. exhibits, with Eastern Youth's punk rock roots, and the more pop inflected American emo that is all too prevalent these days. While I can't delve into singer Hisashi Yoshino's lyrics because, although he does speak English, he chooses to sing in Japanese, I can say that like Cursive, there is a good chance that his voice will make or break this band for you. On the music front, the time this band has been together honing their skills makes their sound quite impressive. The recording is excellent and the melodies are nice. With the occasional, tasteful guitar solo thrown in, most of the songs run for a very meaty for the genre five minutes long without ever becoming tedious. It's safe to say that Eastern Youth are far better than a large portion of the emo bands that are currently residing stateside.

In the end, this disc's selling point is simple name recognition. Fans of either band are going to want this split because it seems both bands have contributed 4 songs each that represent their respective styles to the fullest. On the flip side, chances are that 8 Teeth To Eat You is not going to surprise or convert any new fans who have already heard either of these bands, nor will it break down any traditionally conceived genre lines.