Release Date: Feb 21, 2012
Record label: Saddle Creek Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Post-Punk
There’s no question in my mind; this is a monumental return to form for Tim Kasher after his somewhat dubious foray into the world of solo artistry. This beautifully dark fairytale of a concept album is as heavy as the Cursive of old, ingenious, and just as lyrically surreal as you could hope for. As their seventh in a discography of unpredictable creativity, where I am Gemini holds back on the discordant brutality of the likes of The Ugly Organ, it ultimately proves to be a much subtler beast.
Cursive are back, and as ambitious as ever... That Cursive are still producing consistently decent records this far into their career is a commendable achievement in itself, and seventh album ‘I Am Gemini’ is as ambitious as the previous six. This time around, their jangly indie-rock explores the journey of two twin brothers separated at birth through a procession of the schizophrenic (‘Drunken Birds’) and the more accessible (‘Warmer Warmer’) with largely satisfying results.
In 2010, the hype machine’s needle pointed into the red for this Brooklyn duo, whose excellent thrash-pop debut, Treats, was touted by Spike Jonze, M.I.A., and every pink-haired cheerleader who heard it on Gossip Girl. Reign of Terror, their follow-up, features all the cheap boom-box beats and Guitar Hero riffs that made their debut such a head rush — check the foot-stomping ”Crush.” But it’s Alexis Krauss’ woozy vocals that are truly sublime; she sounds like a real teen dream: ethereally beautiful and totally bored. B+ Best Tracks:Hesher-friendly CrushPop-metal Comeback Kid .
Cursive’s always been a band rooted in concepts that were bigger than any of their single songs. It started in 2000 with Domestica, a divorce-inspired concept album that had bitter, convincing lines that seemed too real to not have been influenced by real life. The band followed up with their breakout, The Ugly Organ, which featured liner notes that look a lot more like a script.
Cursive—and really anything its frontman, Tim Kasher, puts out—can offer a pretty divisive listen. But in the instance of Cursive’s seventh album, any preconceptions definitely need to go out the window. I Am Gemini is more of an auditory theater piece than a traditional record, though you wouldn’t fully grasp its intricacies before flipping through the 12-page script, complete with stage directions, that accompanies the liner notes.
Cursive is no stranger to the idea of the concept album. They started working with them on 2001’s Domestica, continued with 2003’s masterwork The Ugly Organ, and most recently on 2006’s Happy Hollow. Lead singer and songwriter Tim Kasher has returned to the conceptual well and crafted the band’s seventh studio album, I Am Gemini – a dark tale of twins (one good, one bad) separated at birth and now meeting for the first time.
Omaha, Nebraska post-emo outfit Cursive are no strangers to concept records. In 2000 they released Domestica, a deeply troubled album of raw-nerve post-punk with themes of divorce and infidelity running throughout. Their 2003 release The Ugly Organ followed the sexually depraved exploits of a depressed organ player. Nine years later, I Am Gemini gets a little deeper conceptually with the surreal story of Cassius and Pollock, twin brothers separated at birth.
I Am Gemini finds Cursive rediscovering both the fractured riffing of their earliest albums and the grand conceptual bent of albums such as The Ugly Organ, bolstered by the big, heavy production talents of Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Isis, The Sword) and the big, heavy thematic inclinations of frontman Tim Kasher, who whipped up a little two-act play for the occasion. It's your basic tale of good and evil brothers separated at birth and reuniting violently—you know, the dual sign of the Gemini, the fusion of opposites—wait, no spoilers. .
CursiveI Am Gemini[Saddle Creek; 2012]By Justin Pansacola; February 29, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetThere's a Happy Hollow bonus track called, “No News is Bad News” where Tim Kasher sings, “It scares the shit out of me when weathered writers lose their steam / I'm only getting older and less interesting.” For years now, Kasher has seemingly been fighting that battle against writer's block. In all of his projects he seems to attack the problem with one of two approaches: the shouted confessionals and meta songs that brought Cursive their initial breakthrough (e.g. The Ugly Organ, Mama, I'm Swollen or his recent solo album) and the attempts at short fiction in the confines of a song (e.g.
Credit where due: I Am Gemini is Cursive's weakest record by a disheartening margin, but its lyrics sheet sets a remarkably high standard for anti-piracy measures. I'm sorry, lyric sheet is something of a misnomer, this is a full-on libretto. Knowing the concept behind I Am Gemini is the easy part-- by now, you should know that every Cursive record is organized by some conceptual framework, and Tim Kasher has been more than happy to do the heavy lifting for us.
In which two estranged, schizophrenic twin brothers seek to murder/consume one another in the hope of becoming, finally, whole and sane once and for all. Paraphrase never tells the whole story, and even though I think that about gets it about right, there are admittedly a few other narrative stops that the I Am Gemini train makes – a carnival scene with two sisters conjoined at the head; a scene involving a chorus of devils forcing one of said brothers to drink “the old elixir,” thereby casting him into a deep sleep. You know, the usual.
When considering the failure of Cursive’s concept album I Am Gemini, it may be helpful to ponder the words of Stephen Sondheim. Or Friedrich Nietzsche. Or noted aesthetic philosopher Phife “Go get yourself some toilet paper ‘cause your lyrics is butt” Dawg. Any words, really, that distract you from those of Cursive lyricist/singer Tim Kasher, because his words are butt.
Cursive's latest Saddle Creek release is another concept album, this time involving a pair of estranged twins, Cassius and Pollock (one good, one evil), and their torrid, destructive relationship. The idea of a thematic offering is far from foreign to the Nebraska natives, as previous releases have involved dramatic tales of love, woe and despair. But the thing about Cursive has always been how fantastically well structured their music is.
I Am Gemini, the great Cursive’s seventh album, comes with a twelve page “play” of sorts, which purports to tell the story of twins that are separated at birth. As the press kit breathlessly notes, one twin is good, and the other is evil, “Are they two halves of one whole?” My first reaction was: “what the hell?’ The mystery lessened, a little, when I realized that this is a concept album to end all concept albums: the play in fact is the lyric book for the album. The songs all tell the story of the two twins.
Concept album I Am Gemini is the seventh release from Cursive during the band’s 15-plus-year existence. Fans who have been there for the whole shebang will be glad to know that the Omaha indie rockers have still got it—and are cozying up to their pre-Mama I’m Swollen sounds. Riddled with unsettling layers and jarring hooks, I Am Gemini is more in line with 2003’s The Ugly Organ than Cursive’s more recent efforts.
At the turn of the century, Nebraska indie label Saddle Creek made its name behind Bright Eyes and Cursive, and the evolution of that angst – if not so much maturing – has posed a challenge for both projects. Whereas Conor Oberst has gone into the mystic, Tim Kasher continues thrashing against his demons with intricate punk operas, and Cursive's seventh LP is even more ambitiously constructed than 2003's The Ugly Organ. Archetypal struggle of twins separated at birth and grown into dichotomies of good/evil, light/dark, etc, Gemini powers the Omaha quartet's compelling narrative.
Call it an indie rock opera or, if that’s too dated, a movie for the ears, but Cursive frontman Tim Kasher has created a conceptual, innovative and challenging album that combines his already edgy music with an obtuse, often bizarre story. Lyrics are written as if spoken by various characters (serious listeners will need to follow with a libretto) in this biblically based story of estranged twin brothers separated at birth, one good/one evil that includes references to Cain and Able and twin sisters conjoined at the head. Musically this is complex prog/math rock with intricate arrangements, pounding drums, dueling guitars and no solos.