Posted on February 13th, 2012 (1:50 pm) by Nick Arnemann

Weirdness has always been a wonderful aesthetic that has been overlooked by the traditional Guard of Music. For people who only consider pop music to be Music, weird has no place in the art form. Weirdness, of course, is relative: your mother’s first reaction to Lady Gaga is not the same as, say, the cult following that developed around bands like the Residents or Captain Beefheart (O captain, my captain…). Nonetheless, the effects of unorthodox bands are felt long after their careers on the periphery have ended.

Cursive is not especially weird, and their new album I Am Gemini, off Saddle Creek Records, balances strangeness and agreeability very well in a definite post-hardcore tradition. They’re certainly not in the same league as bands like Caroliner, Sun City Girls or Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, for example, though vaguely reminiscent. While these bands were safely avant-garde, peripheral and sometimes downright disturbing, Cursive does maintain elements of their basic noise roots, with a more tempered structure and digestible mood. Squealy tempo-shifting guitar from Ted Stevens, Cully Symington’s hectic drums, Matt Maginn’s growling bass and Tim Kasher’s loping, breaking vocals lay the groundwork for weirdness, and help draw comparisons to these bands and others, but they remain solidly in the mainstream, with songs like “Warmer Warmer” and “The Sun and Moon,” which are safely described as sneering and punchy rather than outright bizarre.

“Sneering” is key to Cursive’s sound; more than previous records, like 2003’s The Ugly Organ, I Am Gemini is dynamic and sinister. Constantly shifting intensity and tempos, along with nearly dissonant instrumentation, ensure an uneasy sense of surreal angst. The lyrics help too, like these from “The Sun and Moon”: “Who was there when you dined with Dionysus/ Who do you think that was nourishing your hubris? ... Who was there engorged in Gomorrah / Who do you think that was dancing in the sulfur?” Classical and Biblical references like these (“Out cold, run over by the boulder of Sisyphus” from “Double Dead”), along with the vague theme of the phrase “I am Gemini” throughout the album, remove Cursive from the present, and add greatly to the overall uncanny effect of the album. Further clever turns of phrase and interesting rhymes, while not exactly Dylanesque, are definitely fun and catch your ear from time to time, choked out by Kasher and well punctuated by Symington, Stevens and Maginn.

There is a minor concern with repetition on this album; “The Sun and the Moon,” “Double Dead” and “Gemini” are all pretty similar, and their proximity leaves a bit more variability to be desired. “Wowowow” is a good, driving, dynamic song and a great stand-out from this album, and finale “Eulogy for No Name” takes a break from the chaos (mostly) and showcases some of Cursive’s softer side. The shorter interludes, like “Lullaby for No Name” and “This House is a Lie” are welcome breaks from a style that, while vibrant itself, can bore some listeners after five or six songs.

Cursive’s I Am Gemini is palatably weird, like Modest Mouse or Foxy Shazam, and rather than fear them as strict mainstream pop lovers do, or scorn their “failed” attempts as true avant-garde listeners would, they should be praised as a necessary link between the Normal and the Abnormal in music. As a philosophy, I embrace them. Musically, they do what they set out to well, and at the end of the day, weirdness is fun. Cursive is fun.

Track List
1. This House Alive
2. Warmer Warmer
3. The Sun and Moon
4. Drunken Birds
5. Lullaby for No Name
6. Double Dead
7. Gemini
8. Twin Dragon/ Hello Skeleton
9. Wowowow
10. This House a Lie
11. The Cat and Mouse
12. A Birthday Bash
13. Eulogy for No Name

Cursive's latest album I Am Gemini
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

73 / 100
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