Reviews

Cursive's Domestica

01/17/2001 | Creative Loafing | Live Show Preview
The politics of love and hate in a failing relationship have long served as lyrical inspiration in song. From Tammy Wynette's "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" to Nine Inch Nails' "Pretty Hate Machine," it seems that breaking up is indeed hard to do. For the Omaha, Neb., quartet Cursive, heartache and despair over failed marriage is the theme for its third full-length, Domestica (Saddle Creek), a concept album that explores one couple's journey through a dysfunctional marriage. Combining emotionally charged indie rock with an intensely personal narrative, Domestica stands as the group's most inventive and versatile recording to date.

Since forming in 1995, Cursive's principle songwriter, vocalist/guitarist Tim Kasher, along with guitarist Steve Pedersen, bassist Matt Maggin and percussionist Clint Schnase, have forged the group as one of the Midwest's most formidable indie-rock outfits. After releasing a debut full-length on the California-based Crank Records, the group turned to its hometown label Saddle Creek to release its second full-length. Not long after recording the bulk of the material for that record, Pedersen announced he was leaving the group to attend law school at Duke University. Cursive disbanded shortly thereafter.

Within a year of breaking up, however, Kasher, in the midst of a painstaking divorce, reunited the group to begin working on another album. With Pedersen away at school, Cursive recruited Lullaby for the Working Class' frontman Ted Stevens to share guitar and vocal duties, as well as lend a hand in the songwriting process. In its new formation, the group set out to record an album that reimagines indie rock's possibilities. And although the story told throughout Domestica may seem like a veiled retelling of Kasher's own marital mishaps, it's not actually an autobiography.

"Ted and I wrote this record as a fictional account," Kasher says. "We invented characters and situations, and although I may have written a few scenes based on my own experiences, this record is very much a fictional account. The most significant difference between the story on the record and that of my own divorce is that the characters on the record don't ever get divorced. They go on living together in a prison they've created for themselves."

From the beginning, all of the album's elements -- lyrics and music, as well as art -- come together to present the unfolding story. Bleak lyrics and song titles such as "The Casualty," "The Game of Who Needs Who the Most" and "The Night I Lost the Will to Fight" narrate a bitter dialogue, while the haunting photographs depict lingering tension as characters grow further apart.

"I've always thought of albums conceptually," Kasher says. "Although not many concept albums have been turned out since the '70s, it seems like a very natural and logical step for the music."

In composing an album that depicts the darkest and most troubling moments of one couple's marriage, the crunching guitars and angst-ridden vocals of Domestica may seem to place the band in the same troubled and disturbing mire as the characters about which it was written. However, Cursive's merging of emotionally charged rock with a conceptual body of work is far from dysfunctional, and may well be a union that winds up living happily ever after.
Cursive's Domestica

Cursive's Domestica

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