Tim Kasher has always been a voice living on the darker side of lyrical content, filling his words with his own animosity, with the subject often turning to his own reflection. Aptly titled, the new Cursive album, Mama I’m Swollen, is another album based on his own self-reflection, and, well, deprecation.
It takes a few seconds of ambient noise, thirty-four to be exact, before Cursive burst in with a fever known to most fans of the band. The guitars cut through your ears with the sharpness of a polished knife, as Kasher sings ” don’t want to live in the now/don’t want to know what I know.” The sentiment seems to be that the man, himself, is unhappy with the way things have turned out. Regardless, the ferocity of this song is a welcome opener.
Skip right ahead to the obvious single, “From the Hips,” which starts the opening minute with a gentle pace, pushed along by the guitar; its reminiscent of The Good Life, Kasher’s other focal point for musical expression. That is until the drums kick in, carrying the song forward, with the remainder of the song revolving around the drums and Tim’s remarkable voice. Happy Hollow horns close the song, a wonderful second track.
Then we find the angular guitar work of the band echoing in the dense hollows of the next few songs, as the sounds seems to bounce off your ears, just as Kasher’s voice rises and falls with that dark edge that only he can wield with such perfection. It’s clear that he’s borrowed a bit from his other musical outing, but the darkness associated with Cursive albums clearly shines through the familiar elements. By this point, your four tracks into the latest musical excursion.
“Caveman” brings in a newer element to the fold, as it seems like a barroom stomper, filled out with the accompaniment of horns. Here we find a man that seems content with where he’s at in his life. On top of that, its clear by this point, the middle of the album, that Tim’s voice is back; its probably never sounded as strong as it does here. But, the sentiment is contradicted by the following song, as the gentle statement of “we’re going to hell, we’re going to hell” rings in listeners ears. Lyrical content aside, this is one of the most beautiful songs on the albums, one where we once again see the passion of our pained hero.
From here on out, the fierceness of the songs diminishes, but there is clearly a brighter side to things. Each of the following songs has a new attitude in the songwriting process. While still holding tight to the stylistic leanings that put Saddle Creek Records on the map, there’s a new sense of clarity to the songs, as they seem less dense than previous efforts, which has made way for some of the stronger songs this side of the Cursive catalog.
Closing out the album is “What Have I Done.” Here, you find one of the better lyrics of the album, if not, the year, as Kasher sings “I spent the best years of my life, waiting on the best years of my life.” It seems as if he’s looking back upon his whole life, or career, with a sense of regret, which is unfortunate, as this sets of songs are some of his best yet. When he asks the audience “what have I done,” our response to Tim should be that he’s put together a complete album, full of masterful songs, including the grandiose closing statement at the end. You’ve done great Tim.