It was 12 years ago that Cursive released their first album on venerable, Omaha indie label, Saddle Creek (Bright Eyes, The Faint). They burst onto the fledgling indie scene at a time when “emo” referred to a brand of music charged with emotion, where the players didn’t wear enough makeup and hair product to choke a Rancor. In 2000, Cursive’s Domestica established them as a force to be reckoned with on the indie circuit and in 2003 they achieved even wider national attention with The Ugly Organ; both albums bursting at the seams with intensity. Singer/guitarist Tim Kasher, departed from his customary autobiographical zealousness with Happy Hollow, the conceptual tale of a small town teeming with confusion in contemporary America. Happy Hollow was an exemplary progression for Cursive, but unfortunately left some fans bewildered. Those fans now have something familiar to come back to.
Cursive’s new album, Mama, I’m Swollen is the marriage of the past that brought them recognition and the spirit of evolution that keeps them from falling stale. There are plenty of trials of self-truth and self-abuse evident in songs like “From The Hips” and “I Couldn’t Love You,” when Kasher sings, “One thing I can say for sure / Is I couldn’t love you any more” we’re left wondering if he loves so much he can’t possibly love any more or if he’s just done loving, period.
Those who’ve come to appreciate the superego-infused lyricism of Happy Hollow will enjoy “Donkeys,” a Pinocchio-inspired tune about overindulgence (“The problem with you, kid / Is you can’t say no / You can’t take a little nibble / Gotta lick the bowl”). In a similar mode is “We’re Going to Hell,” regarding the Janus-faced (“You’ve kept your image squeaky clean / Such a fetching smile /But my, what sharp teeth / We’re going to Hell”). The album is filled to the brim with Jungian themes of duality, conflict and decency.
Mama, I’m Swollen climaxes, but a denouement is lacking as the imagined and imaginative protagonist pleads for air (“Let Me Up”) and contemplates his history (“What Have I Done?”), but in the end is no closer to understanding than he was when we began. If the resolution isn’t the reward, then it’s the journey and this album is one hell of a ride.
Reviewed By: Brian McKinney
“From the Hips” MP3: