Two for One

Cursive
Mama, I’m Swollen
Saddle Creek

As I have stated in the recent past, I have problems with music. I like a lot of music (shut up Mike Geary, yr CD’s are coming soon enough). I recently signed up for eMusic again and was trying to hold on to ten songs to download the new Cursive album, Mama, I’m Swollen which officially releases next Tuesday. Well, as it happens, on Sunday of this week I received an email from Saddle Creek stating that they were offering all sorts of different options to get this new album. One of which was the order the CD, get the digital downloads now and a card for EXCLUSIVE CONTENT. Guess what I did?

I’m not sure at what point really got into Cursive. Sometime in the last four years or so. The older I get, the more fuzzy my personal history gets, let alone my musical history. Needless to say, something compelled me to spend money I didn’t really have to spend ordering the deluxe CD/Instant Download package (the download was not that instant, btw). Now I am sitting here, listening to the album for the third time today, the third time over all scratching my head. I should quantify this by saying quickly that this album is not a bad album at all. But it’s a very confusing Cursive album.

Any fan of Cursive, and as an extension of that Tim Kasher, the singer and guitarist of this band, can attest to the fact that the Dr. Kasher is a bit of an oddling. Since I’ve been interested in the man’s work with Cursive and his other band, The Good Life, I have had to listen to him wonder why he keeps the two identities separate. Well I am here to tell you that this quandary has been resolved. Mama, I’m Swollen is either a more aggressive Good Life album or a softer Cursive album. The problem is I can’t really tell which.

If Happy Hollows was any indication of the future, I’d say it was well hidden and buried. Sure it was not the self loathing, aggressive tome of The Ugly Organ or the proto-emo rocker Domestica, but it’s identity was rooted in the members of Cursive. Perhaps their past and other projects played more on the influences of the album, but for Mama, I’m Swollen the only thing that remains of the past is the distinctive bass playing of Matt Maginn. Otherwise, this album is just an oddity. As a Kasher fan, I find it appealing. The finality of his wails on “I Couldn’t Love You Anymore” are the best he’s ever been. It’s a more grown up man singing this, rather then a relationship battered young man looking at his thirtysomethings with bitterness. “Mama, I’m Satan” sports playful guitar work between Kasher and Ted Stevens that is both resonant, haunting and so familiar for the duo. But the laid back groove is more the norm this time around. As the album progresses to the apex, the title track offers us Bowie esque scenery to underlay Kasher’s adopted laid back delivery he employs so well with The Good Life. In the end though, I am not sure how to feel about this album. Kasher hasn’t given up his bitterness and anger at religion and abandonment, but without the crushing delivery and spooky driving sounds of the past, it sounds less and less like Cursive. Their are defiantly reminiscent moments, but all and all, it’s not what you expect from this brand name. And perhaps that is my own short coming and a music consumer. But I am willing to take the challenge and after all, it is a mighty strong ten song album.

Thursday
Common Existence
Epitaph

I have to say that the explosion of the word emo and the bands that have been associated with this terrible tag makes it very hard for me, a man in my thirties, to admit that I am a Thursday fan. Thursday are, weather they want to or not, one of the bigger “emo” bands in existence today. If we review the life of the tag and apply it to bands like Promise Ring or Braid, I can allow for the connection, but since it’s just better to let that word be associated with such garbage as one might find on the Vans (TM) Warped (TM) Tour (TM?) it’s best to just leave it alone. Thursday seem a little bit more substantial then their other contemporaries in my humble opinion and since this is all about my opinion that’s what we are going to work with here, okay? OHHH-Kay.

Moving on. It’s been a minute since I really caught up with this band. In 2003 they released War All The Time which was so different then the angularity and chaos of their 2001 Full Collapse that I wasn’t really sure they could maintain my interest. By the time that A City By the Light Divided came out in 2006 I wasn’t really that interested. Then last year the New Jersey black wearing mob surprised the world when they announced they were releasing a split CD with Japan noise/post-hardcore/awesome as fuck Envy. In my mind they some how became more legitimate. When the release finally hit the public I was pleasantly surprised by their offering. It may not have been the lush genius that Envy provided, but it was a noble effort and probably introduced a lot of kids to an otherwise relatively unknown band in my book. That was pretty fucking cool.

So when I found myself with some extra cash (which means music) I was drumming around iTunes looking for something to dig into and I saw that their new album Common Existence was available. On the strength of that split I decided to give it a shot and have found myself pleasantly surprised. For starters they have recorded their best song to date, “Friends in the Armed Forces” which is a chaotic, rocking, thrashing facefucking mess of greatness. It also has one of singer Geoff Rickley’s most emotionally honest deliveries. He gets a bit angry and growly which I almost wish he would let go a little bit more of. Needless to say it’s a classic track and as strong as anything on Full Collapse showing that this band did not in fact peek early.

The album opener also offers a great new taste with the help of Rise Against’s Tim McGrath. His added presence makes that song shine amongst the others. But that’s not all that Thursday does different. Keyboards are much more present, holding down the melody of the song and allowing the guitar players Tom Keely and Steve Pedulla a lot of room to breath and thrash around. The guitars are more wild then they ever have been. At times this album feels like At the Drive In at their best, only Rickley is a much more cohesive lyricist and thus his poetics are all the more powerful.

I’ve really enjoyed this album quite a bit. It was a very unexpected purchase and one I did not think I would listen to as much as I already have. So it’s just proof that a band can in fact reclaim it’s power and stride and impress the crotchety old fans that are way more finicky then the 15 year old kids this noise gets marketed to.

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