By: Eric G.
If you read the lyrics before listening to this record, I doubt it'd make it to the turntable. Even a glance at the cover art might steer you away. Hell, this album sat in a pile for months before I could even bring myself to review it. It looks like an emo album about marriage, and it definitely reads like one. It's practically a play by play account of a relationship crumbling from the perspective of a bitter ex-husband. I finally sat down with it and was surprised to find that it rocked despite all the calculated emotional content.
It's impossible to ignore the fact that the singer, Tim Kasher, wrote these songs about his brief marriage. It's mostly a one-sided emotional bloodletting, where Kasher tries to examine what went wrong. He expresses his rage through explosive guitars, guttural vocals and airtight changes. It's also lightly interspersed with electronics. Cursive's music is rooted in mid-eighties DC punk, but Kasher injects enough passion and anger to make it sound invigorating.
Even if the whole concept puts you off, I dare say you could find enough here to appreciate without involving yourself emotionally. But if you're the type who likes to read along with the lyrics you're in for a depressing thirty minutes or so. On "The Casualty" Kasher makes high school journal-type lines sound like bombs in your ears: "Sweetie, the moon has raped me/it's left its seeds like a tomb inside me/so I must learn to abort these feelings/this romance is bleeding."
Kasher has quite an ear for melody and he has an impressive vocal dynamic, knowing exactly when to push it hard. His vocal style is so catchy you find yourself practically singing his horror stories along with him: "Your tears are only alibis/to prove you still feel/you only feel sorry for yourself/and that's how you thrive" ("The Martyr"). I'm reminded of both Jawbreaker and Jawbox at times but never to the point where I feel cheated. Kasher melds his influences well with his unique situation. Let's face it, there aren't too many youthful punk albums about marriage.
It seems like this wouldn't be a very fun album to return to again and again, unless you're a glutton for dejection and despair, but it's got an eerie allure. The voyeurism inherent to the whole album is appealing in itself, but it's the balance between the tight musicianship and the explosiveness of Kasher's vocals that make it so engrossing. I feel silly now for letting this album collect dust for so long because I can't stop listening to it. Kasher took quite a gamble here: the 'punk rock concept album' is hard to pull off, but Cursive not only pulls it off but walks away with one of the best punk albums of the year.