Reviews

The Ugly Organ

Author: Imran Ghori
05/05/2003 | Mean Street | www.meanstreet.com | Feature
It seems to be a given that songwriters must be miserable and pour out their guts in their songs, providing recognition and solace to the masses. Cursive frontman Tim Kasher has deep misgivings about that process.

On the Omaha, Nebraska band's new album, The Ugly Organ, Kasher takes a satirical jab at that expectation, even as he can't help but let out his own misery and self-loathing.

He lays it out plainly in the lyrics to "Art Is Hard," where against a frenetic backdrop Kasher howls, "Well, here we go again/ The art of acting weak/ Fall in love to fail to boost your CD sales." In "Butcher The Song," he laments "I'm writing songs to entertain/ But these people ... they just want pain."

The band - bassist Matt Maginn, drummer Clint Schnasee, Ted Stevens and Kasher on guitar - play songs with a chaotic frenzy that alternates between bursts of punk aggression and melodic reflection. Orchestral flourishes, most notably from new band addition cellist Greta Cohn, add a graceful note to the album, heightening melody and drama at the right moments.

Like his Saddle Creek labelmate Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, Kasher is an appealing vocalist who can tap into the wounded vulnerability of his vividly drawn narratives (which come complete with stage directions in the lyric sheet.)

"I think the songs, if they're not about the abusiveness of writing the song, then it's actually the direct result or end result of that process," Kasher says. "It's kind of both halves of that on the record, if that makes sense."

While Kasher notes that he doesn't mind calling out some of his rock peers, the songs contain a healthy dose of self-analysis, questioning why he does what he does.

"It really is the darker antagonistic side of pointing the finger at myself," he says. "I don't really believe in those things I'm saying, but in that internal argument, that's the fight that one would run into. Why are you doing this? Are you trying to keep your life miserable or are you trying to rehash old memories to try to continue to do some bullshit record or something like that?"

Ironically, or maybe appropriately, The Ugly Organ is turning out to be the band's breakthrough, garnering rave reviews and building on the success of their last well-received album, Domestica. For Kasher, who was feeling pretty self-conscious about the album, it's a welcome surprise.

"It's really way beyond any expectation that I ever would have considered any album I'd ever written to have," he says.

The success comes at a time when Kasher believes the band is at its best.

"Most of us have played together for so long we all just know what direction we want to go and where we want to fit in the song," he says.
The Ugly Organ

The Ugly Organ

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