Saddle Creek | Cursive | Reviews


The Ugly Organ

Author: Fish Rock
02/09/2004 | | | Album Review
Album Picks of 2003

It's quite the scene. It's quite obscene. Cursive navigates The Ugly Organ whilst drunkenly teetering on the razor's edge between cool, calm, collected restraint and dissonant, chaotic insanity.

Herein: Cursive at their most volatile, creative, chemical combustive, moody, provocative, and nerve-racking. Translation: the band is at their best.

Throughout The Ugly Organ, Cursive is brilliantly performing a balance-beam act; they write, play, and record while on a razor's edge. Cursive plays on comparison and contrast between love and hate, beautiful and ugly, dissonance and melody, monochrome and vivid color, rhythm and lead, hard and soft, visual and aural, calm rationality and rabid insanity, praise and defamation, building and breaking, subtle and blatant, mental and emotional, man and woman, distortion and clarity, alpha and omega, simple and complex, passive and violent. . . . Truth be known, it would be quite difficult for me to find a territory Cursive does not explore.

Dynamic guitar, sweeping bass, ragged vocals, inspired drumming, and the addition of an (ugly) organ and cello to the fold.

Greta Cohn's cello on this album goes far beyond the ordinary background effect; her vibrating strings resonate in the warm wood body. At times the cello's a weeping willow sinfully hanging its head in the gentle breeze, at others it's throwing a violent temper tantrum as her branches thrash about, losing leaves in the anger of a ferocious storm.

Lyrically, this album is possibly the best in recent years. Tim Kasher's words are steeped with wit, wisdom, tongue-in-cheek, and plenty of venom spit at himself as he obscenely dissects himself and tears into others. All this is bound together in the conceptual vaudeville act that is The Ugly Organ.

Tim Kasher, A. J. Mogis, and Mike Mogis all did as great a job at recording as Doug Van Sloun did at mastering the album. The recording sounds absolutely perfect as all instruments are full without being touched-up to synthetic proportions. No member of Cursive could possibly do anything different that would improve upon The Ugly Organ as it stands.

Not only does Cursive balance on the razor's edge but they also manage to do this with such fervor and passion that you'll have a hard time not air-drumming, playing air guitar, or singing along with those addictive ping-ponging call and responses.

"Oh, Cursive is so cool!"*

The Ugly Organ is one hell of a roller-coaster album for those who like music teetering dangerously on the edge. This album is one of my favorites and definitely a must-have for 2003 and, for that matter, any year.

*Tim mocking the audience in "Art Is Hard" off The Ugly Organ.
The Ugly Organ

The Ugly Organ

LP / CD / MP3