The Ugly Organ
Before I gush all over "The Ugly Organ", I got to say it did take a few listens before I could form an opinion. It wasn't an immediate "Oh my God this is great". It was more of a gradual "Yea, this is pretty good", then that sentiment slowly changed to one of amazement.
I think it's the ever expanding sound Cursive is putting out that you need to get used to. The last three releases have become increasingly complex and intricate. They showed sings of the texture they were capable of on "Domestica", but even though that album is a great listen, you get the feeling that the vision they had went unfulfilled. And with the "Burst and Bloom" EP we had the new texture of a cello, but the vision didn't seem fulfilled either. But it seems like the band has gelled more with it's new found textures, and found their voice... and it's stronger than ever.
"The Ugly Organ" finds the band at it's darkest and most dramatic. Now, when I say "dramatic", I mean it more in a theatrical sense of the word. The songs play out like short stories, with characters, settings, and a strong sense of mood. You can easily get sucked into the album, but to do so you need to listen to it as a whole. While many of the songs stand on their own, they only truly find their power wrapped up with their supporting cast.
The self-deprecating lyrics of Tim Kasher have only grown more intense on this recording. He takes shots at himself, his fans, and the art form he has chosen as his vehicle. With any other band you might just think, "Well, stop then". But for some reason form Kasher and Co. you feel like it's more a plea to everyone. A plea to gain some perspective, and maybe not take this whole music game so seriously... then again, I could be way off the mark. But that's the great thing about art; it's open for interpretation.
Stand out tracks include the explosive opener "Some Red Handed Slight of Hand", "Driftwood: A Fairy Tale", "Sierra", and the epic, ten minute plus closer, "Staying Alive". The opener kicks the door in with the energy Cursive is known for. It's just raw venting power, a great way to perk the listener's ears up. It's a short track (coming in under two minutes) but it gets the job done, and leaves you catching your breath while you wait for the next track. " Driftwood: A Fairy Tale" is based (loosely) around Pinocchio, and before you say "How very Emo", it's something you have to hear to appreciate. It's a great example of the lost art of good story telling in a song. Even if I did think the premise is cheesy (which, amazingly, I don't), I have to give credit for trying it at all.
"Sierra" is another great example of good story telling. But it's a song I could see going two ways. I see the emotion of the song hitting some people in a profound way, and I see other people brushing it off as just another track. But the most uncharacteristic moment of the album is the finishing piece, "Staying Alive". The songs seems to be more out of a page of Cursive's friend's, The Appleseed Cast, book than their own. It's a ten-minute track that lingers on a few lines of lyrics and tons of reverbed guitars, closing with a choir (of friends) repeating, "The worst is over", a line from earlier in the album.
Cursive have continued to push on into new ground with their music, and you have to respect them for that. Some people group them in the Emo category of things, others tend to fight to keep them out of that lot, but I see them as their own entity. If you are in the market for an album that is going to challenge your senses, I would suggest you seek this out. And don't pass judgment too quickly; this might just be something that grows on you. While I don't think this album is perfect, it's close enough for me.
LP / CD / MP3
LP / CD / MP3
LP / Deluxe LP / CD / MP3
LP / MP3