Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Cursive's "The Ugly Organ"

Tim Kasher wants you to believe that he hates his job. "Cut it out - your self inflicted pain/is getting too routine" he sings in "Art is Hard." Maybe it's justified. After all, the emo crowd doesn't exactly want to sing happy songs. Four of the songs concern Kasher's seeming disillusionment with songwriting and his "fame." Interestingly, this form of self-examination and questioning yourself within the project I found to be intriguing. Other than that, the quality of this record varies immensely, ranging from beautiful to total crap.
"The Recluse" is the album's standout track. Shying away from washes of distortion and dissonance that sometimes clutter up the other tracks, this song explores the emptiness found in meaningless sexual encounters. This is Cursive's first record with cellist Gretta Cohn and her touches bring this song to a new level. I absolutely love the cello and I;m glad that someone finally got the sense to make it part of a band instead of importing band dropouts to add phrases on just a few tracks.
Then Cursive lets me down. Big time. Now I must say I don't dislike concept albums (which this falls under) but please make it worth my while. "Herald! Frankenstein" is just a bunch of noise with the purpose of letting Kasher say in a stupid mad scientist voice "Now I can't stop the monster I've created." Now I understand what he's saying, that now that he's found a niche, it's impossible to stop, but it's such a waste of a song. One wonders why they didn't just make it one of the between track filler things, it's that crappy.
Cursive owes Modest Mouse royalties with "Driftwood." I instantly thought of "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes" when I heard the intro to this song, with it's heavy bass and multiple vocals. Luckily it isn't a complete ripoff and a somewhat decent song. Next is "A Gentleman Caller" which takes way too long to develop into something listenable. Another thing: This is an enhanced disc that contains live videos of "Art is Hard" and "A Gentleman Caller" and other older songs, and Cursive is a much better studio band than a live one. Maybe it was just a bad day but Kasher's vocals don't even resemble those on the record and the arrangements sound muddy and just plain bad, especially on "A Gentleman Caller." I will address my views on live vs. studio some other time.
If there's one thing I've grown to hate, it is a song about the singers kid he never sees. It ruined the Ataris latest record, and though it doesn't sink to that level of schmaltz, "Sierra" almost made me gag. He doesn't sink into the "I miss you so much," crap until the last part of the song, instead focusing on the mother and hoping she's having as bad a time as he is, which is an interesting departure. Then of course he ruins it with "My little girl" part. What a shame.
I want to like Cursive, I really do. And sometimes they actually give me reason to, but then they betray my newfound loyalty with songs like "Staying Alive," a song stretched far beyond its intentions, into the self indulgent arena, much like the last track on Jimmy Eat World's "Clarity." I give this 7.5 tacos, mainly because "The Recluse" saves the record from total failure. I wish that Kasher had explored the self-doubting theme throughout the record instead of hiding it among the regular emo fare. That would have been an album worth getting excited about. But then, how much self-inflicted pain can a man take?

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