Saddle Creek | Cursive | Reviews


The Ugly Organ

Author: Leeds
03/24/2004 | | | Album Review
Tim Kasher guides you on a tour of his own personal hell in "The Ugly Organ." Kasher's got a sense of humor about his own despair and writes about it in the nervous laughter of someone telling you about a car accident they were in. Yes, it was horrible and traumatic, but yes, it also was kinda funny, and anyway, you survived. For Kasher, the dissolution of his marriage and the folding of his band were major direct hits on his psyche. If one takes these lyrics literally, there are more sinister blows to come. On "Sierra" he howls like an animal caught in a legtrap. The name "Sierra" is his daughter's name and the tale of his intense longing to hold his daughter is chilling and terrifying. When he howls her name on the chorus it sends shivers. "I'm ready to settle down now," he wails, but he knows, and we do too, that it is far too late. The anger has been drained from the relationship and now it's an elegy of damage. Kasher analyzes his own need to vent on wax and delivers a sideways indictment of our need to hear it on "Butcher The Song." He accuses, "I'm writing songs to entertain, but these people?they just want pain, They want to hear my deepest sins, the songs from the ugly organ?" Of course he's right. That's the difference between art and artifice, between purity and pretense. If you want shallow sentiment and cardboard reverie, Cursive is not for you. This record has two other gems on it that beg you to replay them, to savor their fragile beauty. Amidst the Fugazi-like angst and the relationship sturm und drang, you get a giddily beautiful "The Recluse" and the poetic "Driftwood: A Fairy Tale." In "The Recluse," a current lover is equated with the recluse spider, "?you're in my web now - I've come to wrap you up tight, 'til it's time to bite down." Of course, Kasher himself is reclusive, so it's one of many instances of impish wordplay. (You understand that the "ugly organ" is the sexual organ, right?) And it's not just pain we're after, Tim, it's honesty. "And I can hardly get myself out of her bed, for fear of never lying in this bed again?" is a starkly accurate frame of mind for the morning after the conquest. Kasher's ego took the bullet for us. In "Driftwood," he crafts a story of himself as a Pinocchio brought to live by the love of a woman only to sink into oblivion as driftwood: "But still he walked on, amongst the whales and the waves, and screamed, 'Liar! Liar,' And his wooden body floated away, he just drifted away." The intimacy of the lyrics is not evident outright, the songs carry you away with hooks and choruses, and eventually you refer to the lyric sheet. Every song on this brilliant record resonates with sly wit and a willingness to capture the singular intensity of betrayal, or defeat, or longing with the perfect words, preserving the awful moment like a fly in amber.
9 out of 11
The Ugly Organ

The Ugly Organ

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