Saddle Creek | Cursive | Reviews


The Ugly Organ

03/06/2003 | | | Album Review
Cursive seem to be at the forefront of this "little scene gone big" that's developed in Omaha, Nebraska over the last few years. Since their formation in 1995, Cursive have given new meaning to being a band on the run, releasing three full-lengths, frequent splits, 7"'s galore, and have had a touring ethic to match. On top of all this, band members, Tim Kasher and Ted Stevens have recently been presenting their talents in other bands, such as The Good Life and Mayday, respectively. Ambition is a beautiful thing, isn't it? Cursive's alleged breakthrough, 2000's Cursive's Domestica brought them more praise than ever expected and was one of the albums that helped land Saddle Creek on the map. Now, to follow up an album as defining and stirring as Cursive's Domestica cannot be an easy task. Something's gotta be done. Enter the addition of an organ, and a cellist (Gretta Cohn.) The result is an album that tests and expands the boundaries of a band that has done it all before.

The Ugly Organ most definitely combines the sinister, relationship-soured Cursive of old with the abovementioned changes to reveal a new direction for the band. This direction could be experimental, it could be impulsive, and it could even be permanent. Regardless, it works and brings together an album that shocks, retreats, and engages equally throughout its 12 circumspectly united tracks.

An underlining characteristic about this disc would have to lie in the thematic organ, which appears at points least expected and is sung about proportionately in Kasher's occasionally hushed, but often raging voice. Kasher is likely infatuated with this new piece of equipment. Case in point: "Sing along I'm on the ugly organ, again / Sing along I'm on the ugly organ, so let's begin" from the short-tempered opening song, "Some Red Handed Sleight Of Hand" and "They want to hear my deepest sins/the songs from the ugly organ" on the choppily brutal, "Butcher the Song."

Speaking of instruments, Cohn's cello is downright destructive. It tears along with the mysteriously tuned guitars, flashy organ, and convulsive drums, whipping and whirling the sound into the confines of a powerful midwestern tornado. At other times, the cello spellbinds, seducing along with Kasher's whispers, specifically on "The Recluse" and "Driftwood: A Fairy Tale." It is on "A Gentleman Caller" where Cursive completely indulge themselves and create one of the most remarkable breakdowns this generation could possibly ever hear. Initially, the track breaks out into a fury of chaotic meandering for two verses and then, unexpectedly, it's all over, leaving just the hi-hats and the coercively arranged guitar and cello parts; shortly the entire ensemble kicks in, and Kasher reassuringly repeats, "The worst is over..." until tracks ending. It's as chilling as it is serene, formulating an impression of composer mastery. This "worst is over..." observation is later picked up on the epically proportioned final track, this time dubbed as the "ghost chorus," convincingly offering closure.

While The Ugly Organ may take some getting use to, especially if this is your first experience with Cursive, it's nothing repeated listens can't cure. And repeated listens are almost necessary to capture any type of essence/concept being portrayed here.
The Ugly Organ

The Ugly Organ

LP / CD / MP3