Novena On A Nocturn
Better Looking Records
By: Eric G.
Honestly, Tim Kasher's shameless sensitivity is better suited for music that rocks. Cursive's Domestica would be nothing short of embarrassing without the explosion of guitars lending credence to the high school poetry. The Good Life is Kasher's side-project. I hate that term because it inherently diminishes the subject- as though it's some kind of second tier priority, but here it's fully applicable and even appropriate.
These are songs that Kasher couldn't justify for use in Cursive for whatever reason. Typically, when bandleaders relegate songs to solo albums it's because they are less universal and more personal, but considering how open and unabashedly sentimental Cursive is, can you imagine what this guy decides is too honest? Novena On A Nocturn answers that question, and, sadly, it's all too predictable.
Kasher avoids Cursive's distorted guitars in favor of organs, cellos, stand up basses, and keyboards. This is his "quiet, singer song-writer" album, so "quiet, singer-songwriter" instruments are used. The truth is, any of these songs could have easily been Cursive songs. The same hooks and emotional build-ups are there- just less pronounced because of the clean guitars. All of this begs the question: if these songs could have been Cursive songs, but they weren't good enough, shouldn't they just be swept under the rug instead of being trotted out as some glorified and indulgent solo album?
The cliché-ridden lyrics are a given, but because of being way too high in the mix they are even more noticeable than usual. Kasher's brutish inflection struggles with the forced falsettos because his natural intonation is that gravelly, post-Jawbreaker yell, which normally erupts into a well-honed scream but not here. Kasher belts way out of his range to emphasize the emotion, which can be endearing when it sounds honest, but all too often Kasher seems to be trading on his honestly for sentimental impact.
"A Dim Entrance" sets the stage for the decidedly dark outpouring of emotion however ambiguous and cheesy: "The days are running down and I'm drowning out this overwhelming sad." Huh? An inexplicable Dr. Dre keyboard line lingers behind a programmed beat that slowly builds into a melodramatic climax of piano and booming drums. "The Moon Red Handed" offers more of the type of embarrassing poetry that any sane person would have burned before letting it be read: "Would you look me in the eye and tell me- does the moon weep at dawn?" Aaah.
The whole record offers similarly confusing sentiments that are supposed to seem thoughtful (poetic?), I suppose. I won't rake it over the coals, though. Just suffice it to say this is not a record that I can recommend, especially since Cursive's Domestica runs circles around it. Cursive fans might be entertained, though, but only the obsessive ones (read young) that connect with Kasher's generic outcries of despair. As for the rest of us, The Good Life should be carefully avoided.