I don’t really do traditional reviews here on T-Sides, because my reviewing is usually covered by Popdose and Bullz-Eye. So, when friend of T-Sides (and top-notch drummer!) Chris Enriquez said he wanted to do a write-up of Cursive’s new album, Mama, I’m Swollen, I jumped at the chance! Here’s what Chris, a long-time Cursive fan, had to say…
Cursive have once again outdone themselves. Mama, I’m Swollen is their fifth album, not including the EPs, singles and splits they’ve done over their 13 years of existence. There aren’t enough words to be said about this magnificent band who have never needed the mainstream to still maintain success — this release is still on Saddle Creek. Though it’s possible that this record has potential to thrust them into more mainstream eyes.
Throughout the hardships and lineup changes, Cursive have come back with an eclectic record with the same heartfelt lyrics die-hard fans are used to. Tim Kasher has proved that he can evolve lyrically with subjects ranging from personal matters to universal philosophies and politics. Musically, the band maintains their edge, which involves pop sensibilities coinciding with tons of dissonance.
It seems that Cursive have not focused so much on making a concept album this time around, something they did with the last three records. Instead, it seems that Kasher’s songwriting has been tied together. Elements of everything he’s done, including The Good Life (Kasher’s side band), all are heard on this release. Ted Stevens’ signature vocal stylings, which involve singing the lower octaves of whatever Kasher is vocalizing, add a dark lush to the vocal melodies on here. Returning to the instrumentation, there are strings, percussion, horns, keys and other layers upon layers. All the songs are moody, some darker and some poppier. Overall, it can be foreseen as a pleasure for anyone that has followed the band thus far.
As for newer fans, this record could draw in more. It seems easier to digest, as they’ve matured since their days of playing more aggressively. Don’t misunderstand though, the aggressiveness is still there. Only now it’s under the layers of beautiful melodies that Cursive have become known to be so good at as they’ve added new instrumentation. New drummer, Cornbread Compton (ex Engine Down/Denali) adds a new flavor to the group on this release. His percussive dynamics add a different groove to the current direction of the band, notably on the single “From The Hips.” Kasher’s lyrics in this particular song, “I’m at my best when I’m at my worst / I’m at my worst when it’s not rehearsed,” sum up the band’s philosophy on why they do what they do. Their sense of realness prevents them from ever seeming like a band that could ever be labeled as sellouts as their fan-base increases over the years.
Cursive: “From The Hips” (download)
With their recent video directed by Michael Groedner, along with the SXSW ’09 appearances and TV debut on David Letterman, the future looks brighter as the band continues to move forward. [Ed. Note: T-Sides caught them live at Music Hall of Williamsburg.] Mama, I’m Swollen is one of the most important rock records to come out in recent time, with nothing but awful dance-rock plaguing the indie-rock world and awful emo plaguing the mainstream world. Cursive formed when mid 90’s “emo” was starting what would eventually influence the mainstream and they’ve managed to not fall into the category of being a cheesy band and still hold a reputation for having credibility. The same can be said for Saddle Creek and the whole Omaha scene.
Pay attention if you aren’t already, and pick up this release. Anyone with a heart and soul will be able to appreciate the genius of Kasher and Co.
T-Sides is always interested in hearing pitches for T-Sides B-Sides features. If you’ve got an idea, write us: firstname.lastname@example.org. And stay tuned for T’s review of this album!