Saddle Creek | Cursive | Reviews


The Ugly Organ

Author: Jordan Olischefski
03/10/2003 | Lost at Sea | | Album Review
Cursive, prior to The Ugly Organ, have released a trio of long players, an EP, and two widely spaced split albums. All of these resulted in my perception of them as the perfect rock outfit, the infallible ones. Such Blinding Stars For Starving Eyes - their trudging, seething debut masterpiece was displaced only, to me, by the bitter divorce chronicle Domestica. I failed to embrace last year's material alongside Japan's Eastern Youth as air tightly as everything else- it seemed to lack the incredible rhythmic bombast and melodic guitar incisions that characterized them, although Tim Kasher's larynx and songwriting were undoubtedly on call. As a result, I ushered it aside, almost dismissing it as their need to experiment exacted; fitting when juxtaposed with their foreign friends.

My first voyage into The Ugly Organ was meticulous. I listened to each song three or four times individually before progressing onward. I waited for the old Cursive to make its appearance with a drunken, furious anthem. The songs suggested I relax my requirements, and built their case with an increasing utilization of cello and more dynamic implementation of the remaining instruments. But I insisted still, knowing it was just a matter of tracks before Tim unfurled a song as permeating as "Fairytales Tell Tales". In this, I was disappointed. I struggled with this album, but finally I prevailed - or rather, The Ugly Organ prevailed over me. It convinced me gradually, and persuasion finally turned to comfort as I was once again felt glorious nesting in the dismantled foliage of Tim Kasher's affairs.

The theme running rampant in these songs is of that carried by a butcher of sorts, or rather an "ugly organ" in the guise of a butcher. What is implied through various situational contexts is that this organ/butcher is the destroyer of relationships, of songs, and the general catalyst for all regret. I think accountability is to be shared equally among the heart, the symbolic musical instrument, and the phallus - the ugly organs which Tim finds at fault for many behaviors which he finds disturbing to himself. It channels itself to music wonderfully, expressing love, lust, emotional discord and a fitting aural accompaniment to a man taking a good, hard look at himself.

There are some precise and penetrating lines thrust forth on here. "Why do I start what I can't finish?/ Oh, please, don't barrage me with the questions/ To all those ugly answers/ My ego's like my stomach/ It keeps shitting what I feed it" is only one example. They underline Kasher's toiling with this aspect of himself while trying to trace back to the source. Throughout the album he refers to himself as driftwood, as a liar, and he hurls the validity of his own songs and his own pain into question. Some might find themselves disgusted at his proclaimed antics and his fixation upon them; however, I find them not as obnoxious as they are prompting of praise for fact that he is acknowledging and sharing his downfalls with us.

Regardless of the debate that Tim Kasher's ego is capable of fueling, praise isn't even slightly in question when it comes to the music. The Cursive fundamentals of propulsive rhythm and jagged, squirming guitars are intact, merely made use of a little more tactfully. A matured songwriting ability has come about, perhaps in part thanks to Kasher's more eclectic side project The Good Life, and what ensues is more distinction between songs both musically and thematically. "A Gentleman Caller" finds the album at its middle point, by which you're utterly engaged but still battered by its noisy arrival. It's like storm and resolution as the circus-like stomp of the song gets hushed abruptly for a prettier, calmer cello progression and matching vocal delicacy, along with a refrain of "doo-doo"s and "the worst is over".

The album's greatest triumph is the closing track, not only because as a song it feels like it's holding its breath until it finally exhales all the layered melody it can muster, but because it's a song both so contradictory of what I've come to know as Cursive's style and simultaneously so appallingly tasteful.

A close friend of mine trounced The Ugly Organ, distancing himself from it because it doesn't sound like the old Cursive. But it's the space between what I wanted this album to be and what it really offers that was most rewarding to me. It is challenging, but that sense of grappling with it has cemented it into my stereo, and I have not in recent memory listened to anything with this kind of conviction. I was determined to bore into the centre of it, find what I wanted. But I struck nothing and turned around to realize how far-reaching it truly is, an extent to which I am still discovering with each time through.
The Ugly Organ

The Ugly Organ

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