Reviews

The Game of Monogamy

Author: Evan Rytlewski
12/16/2010 | Expressmilwaukee.com | www.expressmilwaukee.com | Live Show Preview
Tim Kasher has never shied away from making listeners uneasy. On his dozen or so records with Cursive and The Good Life, he has armed his songs with confrontational emotion, frank sexuality and bitter humor. Each record finds new ways to make even his most hardened fans flinch, but Kasher outdoes himself on one particular track from his new solo album, The Game of Monogamy. The self-hating confessional "There Must Be Something I've Lost" may be the most off-putting song he's ever written. Adopting his most contemptible songwriting voice, Kasher sings of drunkenly cyber-stalking old classmates and fantasizing about sex with ex-girlfriends, his lyrics so unflinchingly ugly and unsentimental they feel like an act of aggression.

"I try to seek out subject matter that is difficult to write about for whatever reason," Kasher explains. "I'm trying to find topics that aren't touched on as much, trying to find insight into experiences that we've all had but that make us uncomfortable to talk about. And lately, I've really gotten into the experience of creating that discomfort live."

"There Must Be Something I've Lost," then, is a centerpiece of Kasher's recent sets.

"The subject matter in that song is so personal that it's very much a shared experience live," Kasher says. "Our drummer was just commenting the other night that when we were playing it, there was a girl in the front row who gave a big laugh and looked at her friends, like that was the only way she could respond. The song was just more than she was willing to take as a listener, so she was conditioned to just laugh."

The rest of The Game of Monogamy isn't an endurance test like "There Must Be Something I've Lost," nor is it the stripped-down, acoustic affair the "solo album" tag suggests. It's a brisk power-pop record, and one of Kasher's most playful albums, vibrant with horns, hooks and orchestral pomp.

And while Monogamy examines the same institution as Cursive's 2000 breakthrough album Domestica, marriage, tonally the albums are worlds apart. Heavy and visceral, Domestica painted marriage as a battle, boiling over as it detailed a relationship in crisis. Monogamy's mood is less passionate and its concerns more mundane, swapping Domestica's high drama for a slow bleed of mortgages, boredom and bed death. More than anything, then, Monogamy is a thematic sequel to Mama, I'm Swollen, Cursive's 2009 treatise on how the expectations of adulthood numb creativity and individuality.

"I'm concerned with what I consider the dullness of growing up," Kasher says. "I really think this is true: We become duller people as we become older. As children, our imaginations run wild, but slowly that becomes dulled, and leaves a lot of people by. I want to hold on to that as dearly as I can, so it's something I try to stay aware of: The dullness of adulthood is at my doorstep, and at all of our doorsteps. I think it's worth trying to stave it off."

It's that attitude that allows Kasher to continue making music in his mid-30s, releasing an album every year or so and spending months on the road. He's committed to a career and lifestyle that most musicians cede with age.

"I just don't have any interest in growing up yet," Kasher maintains. "Sometimes I run into kids I went to high school with, where they've been married for maybe 15 years now and have multiple children that are maybe even in high school, and I joke with them that I only aged one more year after high school. It's true: I haven't changed my job since high school, which I know is kind of ridiculous, but I just don't want to let go of this wild, younger experience."
The Game of Monogamy

The Game of Monogamy

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