Saddle Creek | Cursive | Reviews


The Ugly Organ

Author: Joe
03/02/2003 | | | Album Review
In the movie Pollock, Ed Harris portrays how Jackson Pollock slowly discovered his now-famous painting style; utter madness on a canvas with scattered paint splatters that somehow makes sense. Soon thereafter, his painter wife walks into his studio, takes in the room filled with paintings from ceiling to floor, and stands with her mouth wide open.
"You've done it Pollock," she says. "You've cracked it wide open."
I present you with Cursive's latest full length, the first since the now classic Domestica was released way back in 2000. Fresh off of last years' split with Eastern Youth, Omaha's math-rock wizards are back to show the world just what's been brewing in this unassuming Midwestern city. The Ugly Organ is a true concept album, as the bio that accompanied the cd notes, and it comes complete with stage directions in the cd booklet to guide listeners through the album's twelve tracks. For those of you that downloaded the disc before the release date, you're missing the whole story, as the release includes videos and, from what I've heard, a little surprise.
Like Jackson Pollock's creation, Cursive's album is so innovative and utterly amazing that words can't even begin to describe what sort of monster they have unearthed. Musically, they've taken their sound of the past few records and morphed it all into a single cohesive masterpiece. They start, they stop. They pound away, they sing you softly to sleep. The guitars slowly entwine then unwind themselves again. Cursive has not abandoned their hard-hitting roots at all, only expanded their horizons while keeping emotion as the focal point of who they are. At times it sounds a lot like insanity, with guitar tones that don't sound like they came from a guitar and completely odd time signatures backing things up. Yet, after closer inspection, The Ugly Organ makes perfect sense.
Lyrically, the album is vintage Tim Kasher at his best. He bemoans himself, ex-lovers, generic songwriters. He yearns for love, to be understood, to entertain. More than anything, Kasher's ability to convey a story in his song writing has begun to become more and more evident. "Driftwood" tells the story of a Pinocchio-type character that is sprung to life by a fairy one night. He meets a girl and tries to show her how much he loves her with material gifts, but she knows about "those wooden boys with some empty love to fill the void." After she tells him his nose is growing, the boy runs away denying her claim, until he reaches the ocean, and then drifts into the water. "My arms, my legs, my heart, my face; my name is Driftwood," he cries as he realizes that he really isn't human after all. "Bloody Murderer" rings in with bells and a rhythmic verse before the guitars explode and Kasher finds himself being ordered by a woman to "look at the ghost you made of me." The song slows down again, and then explodes with a broken mirror and the chorus pleading "Bloody Murderer! Just let me be!" The rest of the album is filled with imagery just as vivid and searing, each song telling a different story and all fitting together surprisingly well, like pieces in an old faded jigsaw puzzle.
As The Ugly Organ winds down, we find ourselves with the spacious and atmospheric "Staying Alive," a song that at times sounds more like Now It's Overhead than Cursive. The song slowly builds up to a cello-led rhythm then cascades into a chaotic chorus as Kasher sings of his triumph. "I'm staying alive, kicking and screaming, blood boiling and streaming." Soon the track breaks apart into decaying drumbeats and noise, and a chorus slowly works it's way up to the climatic ending of the album, repeating the same words over and over. Perhaps, more than anything, these words best describe the evolution of Cursive since Domestica told the story of Kasher's failed marriage and divorce.
"The worst is over," the choir repeats. "The worst is over."
The Ugly Organ

The Ugly Organ

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