Label: Saddle Creek
Due Out: March 10th
After all of the internet buzz, and random song streams on Entertainment Weekly's website, as well as Absolute Punk, it's just days before Cursive's new album, Mama, I'm Swollen, hits stores. It's been three years since the band's last full-lentgh, Happy Hollow, was released in 2006 to mixed reviews, and besides some touring since, no one's really heard much. Following each record, Cursive has a habit of going on hiatus for a little while, something I feel helps in the cases of many bands, which accounts for the lack of news. Still, here we are in March, eagerly awaiting Tim Kasher & Co.'s latest effort, in the hopes that maybe, one of these days, the band will be able to produce something that lives up to 2003's The Ugly Organ.
As always, the band knows how to set a mood in the opening track, and this record, like their others, gives us a sense of melancholy, daydreaming, and a questioning of life and the religious establishment. Though the observations still carry some weight since Cursive first introduced their views to the listening public, you can't help but feel as if you've heard these themes one time too many. "In the Now" is the type of introduction to a record you might not mind listening to, but could probably do without. From there, "From the Hips," picks up with an upbeat discussion about self-worth and relationships, among other things, which may end up being one of the album's best tracks. Between that and the following track, "I Couldn't Love You," which was streamed to the public in advance, you can see the essence of the album, as well as its first two singles. The songs both come off as a bit down on things, but overall, are fairly lively and engaging.
What's interesting about the post-cello version of Cursive (cellist Gretta Cohn left the group in 2005) is how easily they've seemed to be able to adapt their sound to the change in instrumentation. Their recognizable guitar riffs are now supplemented by an energetic injection of horns, as well as a steady dose of keyboard when necessary. "Donkeys," which looks to slow it down as we approach the album's midpoint, would have been a prime candidate for cello intervention earlier in the decade, but still survives with its obvious allusions to Pinocchio's Pleasure Island. "Caveman" inserts a fiddle, to create a spaghetti-western feel, though may miss the mark with spoken word interludes.
As we continue, parts of the album may seem to be better-suited for Kasher's side project, The Good Life, but in no way does that take away from them, most notably in, "We're Going to Hell". My biggest question about the record though asks if Kasher has made the two separate projects (both of which he is the main creational force behind) too similar to one another? What made both bands existences work out in the past was how they were very unlike each other. Not to take away from the tracks on Mama, I'm Swollen, but it appears that difference is becoming slimmer over time. From beginning to end, what we see here is a band sticking to a formula and executing it with success.
Admittedly, after hearing this album, I was a bit disappointed. It was not a bad effort in anyway. On the contrary, it's a good album. My problems with it, however, lie in the fact that it does not do much to change what Cursive is as a band. As I said, the band sticks to a formula start to finish, but that formula is not all that different from what has always existed for them. I'd liked to have seen them stretch the boundaries and definitions of the group, and maybe take a risk or two. Believe me, I don't hate the record- in fact, if it was any other band, it would probably be considered great in my eyes- I just would have liked it to be a bit more daring. Still, much credit goes to these guys for another good album amongst a collection of many others, for both them and the Saddle Creek record label. For similarities, check out the aforementioned Good Life, Bear vs. Shark (in music only) and, at times, Sunny Day Real Estate.
Best Track: "From the Hips"