Tim Kasher's side-project Good Life released
Novena on a Nocturn (Better Looking, 2000),
a collection of stark and melancholy ballads,
Black Out (Saddle Creek, 2002), a more tuneful work bordering on synth-pop and a more existential meditation,
and Album Of The Year (Saddle Creek, 2004).
The latter, a linear, straightforward alter-ego of The Ugly Organ,
pivots around traditional song formats such as the
jangling, lilting Album of the Year,
the Leonard Cohen-ian hushed lullaby Night And Day
the Neil Young-ian rousing elegy You're Not You,
the Elvis Costello-ian bouncy singalong Lovers Need Lawyers,
the hard-rock ballad Notes In His Pockets.
Underneath the poppy surface, though, Kasher hid a stylistic range
that perfectly fit the different moods of the songs, with hints to
blues (Under A Honeymoon),
dixieland jazz (You're No Fool) and
country (the first part of the ten-minute Inmates, with male-female vocal harmonies) and Merseybeat (the second part of Inmaters).
It stands as one of the most thoughtful and heartfelt song cycles of the era.
Unfortunately the last three songs were filler.
Sometimes less would be more.
(The limited edition release includes acoustic versions of the entire album, performed by Tim Kasher alone).
Cursive's guitarist Ted Stevens formed Mayday to return to the post-rock and
alt-country program of
Lullaby for the Working Class.
Old Blood (Saddle Creek, 2002) was arranged with a multitude of instruments
(see the chamber progressive folk of Temple/Temporary/Extempore/Temp)
and boasting delicate lullabies such as Cinquefoils.
After the inferior I Know Your Troubles Been Long (BAr None, 2003),
Mayday penned a poppier work,
Bushido Karaoke (Saddle Creek, 2005),
on which violinist Tiffany Kowalski frequently steals the show.
The Difference Between Houses And Homes (Saddle Creek, 2005) collects
singles and rarities.
After a period of individual side-projects,
Cursive reassembled as a quartet with Kasher, Stevens but without Gretta Cohn.
Happy Hollow (Saddle Creek, 2006) is a concept album about organized
religion (and a scathing indictement of it). This time around
Kasher pens songs that are full of tension and sometimes anger. They
careen through their weak melodies like a stretched rubber band.
The frantic, syncopated funk-rock Dorothy at Forty achieves a sort
of tragic grandeur thanks to an epic refrain.
Opening The Hymnal Babies is at times positively scary.
The sound is much harder than in the past (the agonizing Big Bang,
the pounding Flag And Family),
but also more creatively arranged (the horn convulsions of Retreat,
and especially Bad Science, built on shaky foundations of boogie,
funk and Captain Beefheart).
In at least one case, the galloping Rise Up Rise Up, they attain
a new degree of radio-friendliness.
Hymns For The Heathen
Kasher can now also sound nonchalant and sarcastic (Dorothy Dreams Of
Tornados, with the horns and the staccato progressions of rhythm'n'blues,
and especially At Conception, with more of the same but also a catchy melody, like a new version of the J Geils Band).
His philosophical lyrics update the Bible to post-modernist literature
in a disturbingly stately manner.
Cohn's departure left a void in the sound and removed a reference point.
The result is that the songs sound more direct and, at the same time, a bit
unstable. When Kasher successfully merges these two aspects, the project
makes a lot of sense. The music is relentless.
There is only one real pause in this emotional-ideological-musical massacre,
Into The Fold, a ballad of sorts that is further sweetened by
The fact that the most memorable songs
(Dorothy at Forty and At Conception) hardly recall the style
of the early albums shows how much the band has evolved in a decade.
Help Wanted Nights (2007)
was a disappointing continuation of Kasher's side-project Good Life.
By comparison with the three previous albums, and
despite the folk-rock ditty Keely Aimee, it sounds like stereotyped country-pop. The overlong Rest Your Head displayed a modicum of ambition,
but not of wisdom.
Kasher's existential lyrics float aimlessly over randomly conceived arrangements of clarinets and strings on Cursive's Mama I'm Swollen (Saddle Creek, 2009), an album that suffered from the departure of
Gretta Cohn and replaced
drummer Clint Schnase with Cornbread Compton.
If the single From The Hips offers standard Cursive fare (and stands as
Kasher's self-portrait and manifesto),
and a gothic spirit seems to inspire Mama I'm Satan and We're Going to Hell, most of the album relies on instrumental nuances that end up
working more like distractions than attractions
(the organ in Caveman, the
strings in We're Going to Hell,
the woodwind in I Couldn't Love You, etc).
The pensive closer What Have I Done? injects massive doses
of melancholy but the music and the lyrics rarely ignite each other.
The next concept, I Am Gemini (2012), was simply a lame collection
that relied too much on Kasher's storyline.
The Sun And Moon was also the leading song of as a four-song EP.
After a six-year hiatus, Cursive delivered Vitriola (15 Passenger, 2018), which
marked the return of original drummer Clint Schnase as well as a cellist
(Megan Siebe) and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Newbery.
It was another ambitious albums that only suffered from lack of musical
inspiration, certainly not of stories (and opinions) to tell.
the six-minute Ouroboros
and the seven-minute Noble Soldier / Dystopian Lament sounded more
verbose than enlightening.
And even the noisier songs, such as Under the Rainbow, couldn't
pack the intensity of their classics.
Get Fixed (2019) was introduced by four singles:
Black Hole Town ,
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Matteo Gentile) |
Un nuovo membro, il violoncellista Gretta Cohn, ha suonato nell'EP Burst And
Bloom (2001) e nel quarto album dei
Cursive, The Ugly Organ (Saddle Creek,
2003), con Kasher che gioca sempre più con le tastiere. L'album è stato un ulteriore e impressionante risultato di un filosofo in
maturazione. La traccia d'apertura, Some Red Handed Sleight of Hand , stagliava il fervore punk in
mezzo a distorsioni psichedeliche di organo, riff di chitarra primordiali e
rumori assortiti. Kasher si unì ai ranghi più elevati delle anime in pena del
folk rock con Art is Hard (che è anche
un singolo), mescolando il melodramma emo al pugno duro del noise rock anni '80
con la disperata e caotica A Gentleman Caller (che forse più di tutte ricorda gli album precedenti, un
grido che d'improvviso si fa tutto tenero e meditativo) e la singhiozzante Butcher
the Song . Alla fine risalta un elemento in particolare, che è la paura. Essa affiora in
tutto il suo terribile splendore in Harold
Weathervein (punteggiata da archi in
staccato e conclusa da un clangore di organi spettrali) e nella traccia
seguente, Bloody Murderer (sfregiata da
ritmi industriali, violoncello slanciato e persino campane funebri), ma è
sottesa in gran parte delle confessioni dell'album. Kasher s'addolora in The
Recluse (l'unica canzone in cui si possono
veramente apprezzare le sottigliezze strumentali, in particolare il violoncello) e nell'atmosfera onirica di Driftwood
(guidata da un sussurro solenne e da un inquietante
sibilo di organo), che incarna l'equilibrio ideale della narrazione tra il
mondo emo e la sfera dei sentimenti. La successiva traccia di 10 minuti Staying
Alive è un
monumentale riassunto dei temi dell'album: un lento crescendo strumentale che
porta a una rumorosa jam quasi raga, distorta e frenetica, che dopo sei minuti
decade in un paradiso di voci dilatate e accordi moribondi. Kasher ha composto
le canzoni come sequenze e strati di angoscianti esplosioni creative e la band
ha risposto confezionando le creazioni di Kasher in formati mirabilmente
eccentrici. Il chitarrista dei Cursive Stephen
Pedersen formò i Criteria.