Saddle Creek | The Good Life | Reviews


Help Wanted Nights

Author: Dan Weiss
09/26/2007 | | | Album Review
"We all know art is hard/ young artists have got to starve," sang Tim Kasher on The Ugly Organ, the best album he'll ever make. Kasher's problem is that he's got more concept albums than concepts for them. The reason the aforementioned Cursive album remains one of my favorites of the millennium is because there's a damn good joke folded into half of it: what happens when an angry young band is no longer angry? Do they fake it to maintain their capricious fanbase? Cursive's Domestica was only half as funny, and Kasher's eternal "other band," the Good Life, holds to more abstract territory, with exceptions like the jaunty, good time title track of the 2004 EP Lovers Need Lawyers. It doesn't help matters that the Good Life are kind of a folk band; folkie jokers are old hat, whereas posthardcore jokers are truly something newer. Ditto for folksy introspection.

Kasher's insights are more local than wunderkind labelmate Conor Oberst's, so he conceptualizes plots almost defensively, as though the pitfalls of romance and a Catholic upbringing haven't been documented to death. Help Wanted Nights, supposedly based on a screenplay he wrote, concerns Kasher's usual luck with women, though the music's so passive I can't imagine parsing out the plot on just one trip to the lyric booklet. The last Cursive record, Happy Hollow, had more theme than storyline anyway, so make like other wunderkind labelmate Eric Bachmann and just bask in the hurt. To Kasher's credit, this record resembles a balm more than anything else he's ever done. More relaxed, less angry, and fighting it, Kasher actually sounds ready to love again, only seven years after Cursive's album-length divorce spittoon. "You're a fool for the wounded/ I'm a man in need of bandages/ o, wrap me up and take me home," - that sort of thing.

Musically, this album sounds, if you discount Kasher's pained straightforwardness, more like Wilco's Sky Blue Sky than any Saddle Creek release. There's a classic folk-rock fetish that abounds, the guitars ring and warble, though Stefanie Drootin's crafty bass twisting is one of the more memorable nuances. Kasher's voice even takes on Jeff Tweedy's cracked throatiness on mildly sprawling closer "Rest Your Head" - fuck, an organ solo takes it out!

Help Wanted Nights may leave longtime fans of Kasher's tension-and-release cold at first, but after repeated listens it probably hangs together better than any other Good Life release. Sweeter melodies than "Keely Aimee" or "On the Picket Fence," (with a melody haunted by Oberst's "Lua") might be found on 2004's Album of the Year, but certainly not this consistently. And the whole vibe is so loose and couchy, you get the idea Tim Kasher's just yanking your chain about a plot at all. To wit: "Roughly a week in a bar in a small town where a stranger's car breaks down... so, he fraternizes with the regulars, getting too wrapped up in their sordid lives. Something like that."
Help Wanted Nights

Help Wanted Nights

LP / CD / MP3