Saddle Creek | The Good Life | Reviews


Help Wanted Nights

Author: Justin W
09/11/2007 | | | Album Review
Bands evolve and the fans have to deal with it. Their musical palette expands and the records change. This holds true with Cursive frontman Tim Kasher's music catalog. However, one aspect never changes, his bleak outlook on the world. It's always cynical, full of sarcasm, and consistently heartbroken. No matter what musical guise he wears, these sentiments are expressed through his intelligent lyrics and an unmistakable detuned wail that remains a prevalent fixture on all records he has a hand in. Help Wanted Nights is a new batch of eleven songs by The Good Life, based off a screenplay written by Kasher in Los Angeles. The band has returned after the hell-of-a-concept record, 2004's Album of the Year, with a new sound offering less theatrics and musical bite than before.

The band has shifted musical paradigms once again, this time crafting a lyrically somber record overlaying an upbeat, rhythmic backdrop. Unlike Black Out and Album of the Year, this is not a concept album. The eleven songs are related, but rather than being a serialized narrative these tunes are single snippets of one cynical life. Compared to the electronic ticks and creaks of Black Out, or the multi-part story arc of Album of the Year, the production of Help Wanted Nights is noticeably more laidback. The electronic embellishments have been stripped down to apparent bass lines and the cohesive storytelling has fallen to a fragmented climax, offering less emotional payoff.

Unlike the music, the lyrics tread familiar territory. On the hushed account of questioning "You Don't Feel Like Home to Me", the character is more one dimensional than before. Kasher's hushed lyrics prove relevant while the song feels stiff and anchored. "He sees her face/ in highway signs/ traffic lights/ and she's turning red/ a motel/ on a double bed/ he swears he feels her lying there" The emotion remains but it sounds unnatural. It's lyrically moving, but the song itself refuses to mesh and let those moments soar. Ironically, the most upbeat song on the record is "Heartbroke", a song about breaking up - but at less than two minutes, its oomph is short-lived and paves the way for more plodding confessionals and whimsical uncertainty.

"Your Share of Men" is acoustic balladry with clever lyrics backing it up, "one man's bed is another mans gurney" changes in the second verse to "one mans bed is another man's resurrection" and it is moments like these where the album feels cohesive. But satisfaction is never resolute, and taken as a whole the album lacks continuity. It flies by at forty minutes exactly and though it feels light for a record from The Good Life, it is full of witty analyses of life's frustrations, and melodies that you'll find yourself humming.

The Good Life have carved some killer records during their time away from Cursive, but Help Wanted Nights feels unenthusiastic, which is likely a deliberate move by the band. Yet, after hearing the embellished songs on their other records, the songs here just are not as strong. The melodies linger but the chorus' don't stick in your head as hard. There are some true gems here, but fans of the band may reach for their back-catalog instead.
Help Wanted Nights

Help Wanted Nights

LP / CD / MP3