The Ugly Organ
Author: Brian O'Neill
03/14/2003 | All Music Guide | www.allmusic.com/ | Album Review
If labelmate and fellow Omaha dweller Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes is "the next Dylan" as many lauded, then his counterpart in Cursive, Tim Kasher, must be the next Lennon. Which isn't to say that The Ugly Organ is particularly Beatlesque; however, Kashner managed to follow up an acclaimed disc that was considered a departure by many with a piece of work that goes even further away from his roots, with results that are even more impressive. The follow-up to Revolver was pretty well-received too, after all. Following an emotional breakup, it is natural for a person to become sexually promiscuous, for a variety of reasons. 2000's Domestica shared the intense pain of Kashner's divorce, which almost definitely makes The Ugly Organ a tragic tale of his subsequent grudge fucking. Being a sensitive boy, this period seems to have had a profound effect on him, as based upon the overwrought melodrama with scarcely concealed metaphors to genitalia and sexual acts that include and go beyond the title itself. Indicative of this is "Butcher the Song," which combines off-putting, off-time, off-kilter percussion, calliope-sounding keyboards, and cello, as the singer pines like Morrissey if the former Smiths crooner traded in his sad for mad. That cello is the difference maker; first explored with on the Burst & Bloom EP, Gretta Cohn's addition to the band's sound is now a prominent and essential piece of the band's overall oeuvre, adding either a somber dissonance or a pointed attack, depending on the song, that makes the emotional lyrical outbursts about sex and the sentiments the act brings out to be even more compelling. To separate the songs from one another as individual artifacts is a natural thing to do whether you are playing the disc for a friend or making a mix tape; however, in this case, such a division in this case borders on the criminal. The Ugly Organ is greater than the sum of its parts, with tracks that flow into one another seamlessly in spite of the wildly varying tempo and stylistic changes, not surprisingly like a classical piece in that regard. Even disregarding the stringed instrumentation that obviously alludes to the comparison, the movements are pieced together with orchestral precision, culminating with "Staying Alive," a crescendo that flourishes in intensity with guitars, drums, and cello all flying into different patterns that still mesh perfectly together, growing in strength until you think everyone involved will burst. One might say it's as good as sex, even if, based on the themes that The Ugly Organ explores, Kashner would wonder whether that was a compliment.
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