Cursive - Mama, I'm Swollen
- Artist: Cursive
- Album: Mama, I'm Swollen
- Label: Saddle Creek Records
- Year of Release: 2009
- ME Rating:
- Reviewed by: kev_stev on 2009-03-17
Cursive has been nothing but resilient in its near fifteen years as a band. The group has withstood indefinite hiatuses, the collapse of lead singer Tim Kasher's lung, and numerous alterations to the band's lineup (changing their bassist and drummer, adding a full-time cellist and a horn section). Despite all the setbacks, the indie-rock vets have managed to produce their sixth album of raucous, dynamic-heavy diatribes called, Mama, I'm Swollen. The album is the continuation of the band's sharp social criticisms, where Kasher acts more like a philosopher than a songwriter, censuring the nature of humankind and observing life outside of society's parameters.
Kasher has proven to be one of the more gifted lyricists over the years. Whether he is capturing the entropy of failed marriage or attacking the hypocrisy of sanctimonious preachers, his writing has always been as emotionally compelling as the band's dynamics are jarring. On the new album, he tackles his most weighty territory yet, scorning manmade institutions (of thought, of religion, and of action) and the façade of a constantly improving society. To Kasher, true progress is muddled by society's establishments, with the act of communication ("From The Hips") and the implementation of rigid moral codes ("Donkeys") preventing people from acting natural, or instinctual. In instrumental outbursts, the natural world is exulted and the enlightened man shunned, like on the quick-tempoed, iconoclastic "Caveman" where Kasher sings, "I'm no happy family man; I'm no husband, ain't no dad. I'm a caveman."
The opening half of Mama is everything you could want from a Cursive album: it is boisterous and catchy on single "From the Hips" and The Cure-esque "Couldn't Love You," while moody and witty on "Donkeys," the album's twisted take on Pinocchio. However, the latter half explores new territories lyrically and sonically, raising the contradiction of Kasher's escape from society into the natural world. The nature of humankind-and existence in general-is presented as a "cancer," a darkness brooding in us all, and, although Kasher wants to escape an irreparably corrupt society, he sees that society acts to restrain the intrinsic evils of mankind. Mirroring the pessimistic outlook on human nature and existence, the album becomes noticeably darker, drearier, and more jaded. In the dramatic "Mama, I'm Satan," Kasher recognizes the "darkness of mankind [that] stirs in us all," and in a cathartic plea for redemption he screams, "I'll cast you out" over squealing guitar strikes-the exorcism of his evil, or Satanic, nature.
The titular track chronicles the album's tensions until the music combusts, as horns screech over crunchy guitars. Following is the album's closer, the confessional, "What Have I Done?" which manages to culminate the album with a four minute build up of hazy feedback and somber vocals. As the song reaches its cathartic crescendo, Kasher asks himself over and over, "What have I done?," a question that transcends Kasher's life as a musician, provoking the universal discussion of existence. Basically, if you like psychological and anthropological studies of the nature of mankind; or narrative, cohesive songwriting; or witty wordplay; or aggressive, climactic instrumentation; or anything that is not dragging with pretension from the indie scene, then I wholeheartedly suggest you pick up this album.
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on 2009-03-17 kev_stev Said:
The more I write about this album, the more I love it. I don't know where it's gonna stand on my list of Cursive albums, though.
on 2009-03-15 mountaloha Said:
You're right! I never thought someone would have heard what I heard. Thanks for the answer. Now my mind can rest.
on 2009-03-15 kev_stev Said:
here's your answer, my friend. the shins' "sleeping lessons." i picked up on it right away. glad someone else sees it too!
on 2009-03-14 mountaloha Said:
I know this a shot in the dark, but I must ask someone because I'm going insane. Around the 1:30 mark of the song "From The Hips" there is a change in the song, it becomes more up-beat. It reminds me of another song and I can't figure out what song it is. If anyone can help me I would be very grateful. My mind can't take this torture anymore.
on 2009-03-06 dscanland Said:
Just wanted to point out the free MP3 of Cursive's From The Hips. Right over there on the side. Enjoy!
on 2009-03-03 kev_stev Said:
Yeah. I got an advanced copy of this baby in February and I was so-so about it on the first couple'a listens. Good call!
on 2009-03-02 kev_stev Said:
i'm sad that you think this way. i too think this is an improvement from happy hollow, but i think it's a very good album; it's dark, witty, introspective, moody, dynamic--pretty much all the things you look for in a Cursive album. gotta give this another shot!