Reviews

The Game of Monogamy

Author: Adrian Mack
11/02/2010 | Georgia Straight | www.straight.com | Live Show Preview
How much masturbation is appropriate for a married man? It seems like a fair question to put to Tim Kasher, whose inaugural solo record, The Game of Monogamy, is an unflinching wade through the sewers of male sexual psychology. Except that he doesn't have an answer for this one. "I have to admit," he begins, calling from a hotel in Dallas, Texas, "I've been married before, but I was a child. I think we'd have to survey men who've weathered marriage for longer."

Kasher's marriage and divorce lent some real heft to the acclaimed 2000 album Domestica, which the Nebraskan songwriter made with his band Cursive. Kasher tackled the vicissitudes of romance again with 2004's Album of the Year, which he recorded with his other band, the Good Life. On The Game of Monogamy, his first real solo outing, Kasher is once more performing an autopsy on a relationship, dredging up the kind of hideous truths about our monkey brains that should never enter polite conversation, except maybe in front of a marriage counsellor.

It begins with the slyly comic curtain-raiser "Monogamy Overture", which Kasher describes as "suburban-idyllic, soap-operatic". And then it's all downhill, with the singer howling at his inadequacies in "A Grown Man", and scolding his messy libido in "Bad, Bad Dreams". The thrill is most definitely gone in "No Fireworks", which Kasher counterintuitively presents as a lush pop song built on swooping strings and Rhodes piano. Ditto for upbeat tracks like the Joel Plaskett–esque "Cold Love" and "I'm Afraid I'm Gonna Die Here", where bright arrangements paper over Kasher's despairing take on a marriage fallen into dissatisfaction, indolence, resentment, and infidelity.

Most strikingly, on a song called "There Must Be Something I've Lost", Kasher croons, "I want to have sex with all my old girlfriends again" atop a delicate tangle of oboe and flute. He claims this is the one that's gotten him into the most hot water.

"I find there's a backlash, which I expected, from women," he says. "And I'm okay with it, but I do think it's unfortunate because I feel that I've always written with a lot of sensitivity toward both sexes, but speaking on behalf of the male perspective. Some of the uglier lyrics, like 'I wanna have sex with all my old girlfriends again', if you take it out of context, it's unfair. I think at its darkest, the album kinda becomes an antimale manifesto. But I can't expect everybody to sit down and study the album. And if you treat it as a light listen, it can certainly come off as pretty awful."

Kasher points out that by the end of "Bad, Bad Dreams", he's ready to "lop it off" (can you guess what "it" is?). In general, though, he figures The Game of Monogamy is best understood inside a literary rather than a musical tradition. Asked if he can name another record that's quite as shame-drenched in its view of the male psyche, he prefers to bring up novelist Philip Roth.

"I think he's an incredibly insightful writer and I think he's very unhealthy," Kasher says with a laugh, "but he's pretty right."
The Game of Monogamy

The Game of Monogamy

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