Reviews

The Game of Monogamy

Author: Tim McMahan
11/17/2010 | The Reader | www.thereader.com/ | Live Show Preview
Will we ever know the real story behind the songs that make up Tim Kasher's debut solo album, The Game of Monogamy?

Probably not. "Some friends and family — people who really know me well — try to guess which songs are accounts of my life, and they're always wrong," Kasher said while on the road in Dallas. "To me, that's great. That means I'm getting better as a writer."

I, too, tried to pry the real meaning behind bitter-worded songs like "Cold Love" (The sheltered life of a couple / Is like living in a bubble), "No Fireworks," (I thought love was supposed to spill from our hearts / I can't feel it, no fireworks, no twinkling stars), and "There Must Be Something I've Lost," (When I was young I believed in love / But hey, I also believed in God), which aren't so much about monogamy as much as the agony of living in monogamy.

"That's why calling it The Game of Monogamy is so crucial," Kasher said. "I don't feel the record is about monogamy. I still yearn for that concept, which is why I call it a game. I also think we could sit here with a panel and they'd all agree that it is a game. It's not easy, and isn't it also a pain in the ass?"

But where, exactly, did Kasher's cynical view of long-term companionship come from? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that in the fall of 2009 the singer/songwriter frontman of successful indie bands Cursive and The Good Life seemed to be a happy fiancé, only to become unattached again just a few months later. Kasher, who once admitted that seminal Cursive album Domestica was about his failed marriage, won't talk about that recent engagement, nor say if it supplied meaning for this record.

"To me, the album is like (The Good Life's 2004 release) Album of the Year, where I was chronicling the bulk of my experiences over a year," Kasher said. "I kind of did the same thing with this record. There are specific references to my own life; I can't deny that, but there's so much other stuff, too. The story as a whole is a fictional account. That's what you do as a writer — you base it on your own experiences, and then fictionalize it."

Kasher said he started writing the songs for The Game of Monogamy two years ago when Saddle Creek Records label-mates Azure Ray invited him to play solo at some of their reunion dates, back when he still lived in Santa Monica, California. "I thought it was a good opportunity to start writing my own record, which I always planned on doing," he said. "I did do that once, back in 1999, but that became a band (The Good Life). This is me starting over."

In late 2009, Kasher moved from Santa Monica to Whitefish, Montana, after his pal, Stefan Marolachakis of the band The End of the World, told him what a great time he had recording up there. Kasher compared the area of northwestern Montana to the bucolic land seen in the 1992 Robert Redford-directed film A River Runs Through It. "I wrote about half the record in those four months in Whitefish," he said. "I was really lucky."

Maybe splitting the songwriting between Santa Monica and Montana explains why the music on The Game of Monogamy comes in two distinct flavors. Acoustic heartbreakers like "Strays" and "The Prodigal Husband" and epic closer "Monogamy" are balanced out by some of the best pop songs Kasher has ever written, including the brass and electronic-handclap driven "I'm Afraid I'm Gonna Die Here," and simple, swinging "Cold Love," both of which would be radio hits in any other universe.

Kasher can't help but be proud of those perfect pop gems. "I wouldn't say 'proud,' I'd say I was pleased, for lack of a better word, with writing 'Cold Love,'" he said. "It seems like a ridiculous concept that as a musician and songwriter you spend so much time trying to make things so complicated, and spend so much of your life trying to find ways to simplify things. I get more comfort from trying to hit those pop peaks. I love pop music, and those songs are just me being more willing to see them through."

Backed by a solid band that includes Patrick Newbury on keyboards and trumpet, Dylan Ryan on drums and Lewis Patzner on cello and brass, Kasher had no expectations for this, his first solo tour. "No one knew what to expect, so we all prepared for the worst," he said. "We never had any false assumptions that people were going to show up because they knew my name."

But, thankfully, they have. "After 10 years of fairly consistent touring, here I am touring more than I've ever toured," Kasher said. "I thought I'd slow down at some point, but touring is such a huge part of staying afloat."

So are his other projects. Kasher said he's working on new Cursive material as well as another solo record. He's even written a couple more screenplays despite being unable to get his first screenplay, Help Wanted Nights, produced. "The long and short of it is that it didn't work out, but I'm still feverishly trying to crack into the (film) industry," he said.

With all that under his belt, the only thing he's missing is writing the Great American Novel. Kasher just laughed. "If everything went incredibly well, that would be the third chapter of my life."
The Game of Monogamy

The Game of Monogamy

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