Saddle Creek | Tim Kasher | Reviews


The Game of Monogamy

Author: Zach Roth
10/04/2010 | | | Album Review
There aren't many things in this world more earnest than an album written by Tim Kasher. Whether he's writing for Cursive, The Good Life, or now as a solo artist, Kasher has been crafting an endless parade of characters entrenched in dysfunctional relationships, characters too eerily realistic to be panned as sarcastic stereotypes from the mind of a bitter cynic. Although, the fact that Kasher has been so reluctant to write about anything other than monogamy (and with it, sex, divorce and misery) for about ten years sort of undermines that, but can you blame an author for writing from experience? That's Creative Writing 101.

In short, if you've come for something exciting and new from Tim Kasher, something that doesn't sound like more recent Cursive and The Good Life efforts and isn't about the melancholy existence of people falling in and out of love, you'll be sorely disappointed. If, however, you believe that things that aren't broken shouldn't be fixed, read on!

The Game of Monogamy opens with an orchestral track entitled "Monogamy Overture," foregrounding the generous use of theatrical arrangements through the album, complimenting Kasher's unique brand of mellow indie rock. The following track, "A Grown Man," begins with Kasher crooning over the top of pregnant silence before a shambling bass line builds into a frenetic crescendo of horns, marching snare and ringing whistles, while "I'm Afraid I'm Gonna Die Here" features organ, keys, handclaps, and another liberal smattering of horns.

"Strays" is one of the stronger tracks on the album. A quiet song comprised mainly of two acoustic guitars, it tells the classic story of "boy-meets-girl" and the long, winding path of their rocky romance. Eventually, they adopt two dogs and settle into a rather idyllic life; the final lines of song are subtle, but touching: "We're a family of strays, but together we've been found." Happy endings are rare in Tim Kasher songs, however. Another choice cut, "Cold Love," follows "Strays" and details the painful, slow death of a couple's sexual intimacy. The song is almost unfortunately catchy, with a danceable, horn-laden chorus that belies the defeated tone of its final chorus: "Cold love, is all that we know. (Cold love) No words, no devotion. Cold love, only takes a few minutes. (Cold love) Let me know when you're finished..."

Kasher's mixture of wordplay, literary allusions and blunt statements has always combined to create poignant lyrics that never felt hackneyed or trite, yet there are some lines that Kasher stumbles over, the most egregious being: "I wanna have sex with all my old girlfriends again. I swear it's just the familiarity I miss. Ah, fuck it. It's just typical male conquest. Y'know the world don't revolve around your prick. Just ask your old girlfriends." It transcends "blunt" and reaches a whole new level of "unedited, ugly, free-writing." For the most part, when Kasher isn't Tweeting lyrics over a piano interlude, his prowess with the pen is as strong as ever.

The Game of Monogamy finishes strong, unlike most of the relationships Kasher has chronicled in his lyrics. On top of the great violin work, the final track "Monogamy" churns with an electronic backbeat as Kasher spins his final tale of atrophying romance. The speaker takes account of his unsatisfying new life of monogamy and its unsettling blandness. He and his wife are invited to a friend's anniversary party, "Celebrating ten years of married bliss," and upon arriving, the speaker encounters the friend's wife sobbing on the phone asking, "How do we keep up this charade, monogamy?" The ring out is theatrical and epic; Kasher, accompanied by a chorus sings, "Monogamy," as timpanis, various woodwinds and horns flourish until coming to an abrupt end, like a... (Reader Interactivity Time! Add your own simile about romances abruptly ending!)

Despite moving across the country, on The Game of Monogamy, Tim Kasher doesn't really cover any new ground, musically or thematically. However, the man knows where his strengths are. The added orchestration adds just enough of a new dimension to Kasher's time-tested indie rock formula, and his lyrics pop with just enough clever wit and verisimilitude to forgive his fixation with a marriage, boredom, sex, boring sex, and the inevitability of separation. Most importantly, Kasher has put together a solo album that stands alone, and will appeal to an audience greater than fans of Cursive and The Good Life. However, this album is not recommended for happily married couples.
The Game of Monogamy

The Game of Monogamy

LP / CD / MP3