Release Date: Oct 5, 2018
Record label: 15 Passenger
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
If the main function of a side project or solo record is to allow an artist to exercise some different creative muscles for a change, then the secondary purpose, they would hope, is that it leaves them fresh to return to their primary outlet rejuvenated and with renewed urgency. Last year, Tim Kasher released third album, 'No Resolution', one surprisingly muted by his own standards, and that instrumentally was clean and sparse enough to let his lyricism do most of the talking. Now, he returns to his role as frontman for Saddle Creek mainstays Cursive with an album that brims with dark energy, as well as the sort of tenacity that you'd like to expect from a band who've not released an album in six years.
"This civil war aint civil anymore" Tim Kasher let's rip on 'Pick Up The Pieces' and it's just one example of his newly outward facing anger that spews forth on Cursive's first record in over six years; Vitriola. The art-rock band changed the landscape of emo and indie with their high-strung concept records full of snarling and the jagged saw of frenzied guitars. Their math-rock time signatures always jarring you in and out of Kasher's anxious mind with abandon.
Previously addressing numerous ills in society (organised religion took a beating on Happy Hollow, whereas the band's best record to date, The Ugly Organ, tackled sex and relationships), it felt almost inevitable that the emo/post-hardcore heroes would get to it eventually. And so, here we are. Supposedly partially influenced by the wife of guitarist, vocalist and primary songwriter Tim Kasher, and her general pessimism about the human race, Vitriola paints a pretty bleak picture of life in 2018.
Longstanding champions of angular, high-concept post-punk, Cursive settle into a slower pace as they approach their 20-year mark. A string of emotionally intense and conceptually dense albums included 2006's Happy Hollow, 2009's Mama, I'm Swollen, and 2012's I Am Gemini, the sometimes Byzantine saga of twins separated at birth. Eighth album Vitriola marks the first new music from the band since I Am Gemini and goes in a different direction, with lyricist/guitarist/vocalist Tim Kasher turning away from traditionally intertwined narrative songwriting.
You can argue that making a true anti-war movie is impossible. The cinematic treatment inevitably glamorizes conflict and prompts the audience to pick a side. Tim Kasher has the same issue. Cursive detractors and diehards can agree that the band's classics, 2000's Domestica and 2003's The Ugly Organ, are cautionary tales of unchecked male insecurity.
There is a subset of Cursive fans for whom 2003's The Ugly Organ remains one of the most vital and visceral indie rock offerings this side of the millennium. Pretty cool for said subset to scroll through the preemptive press on Vitriola and see a few mentions of it. Part of that is just staffing: Cursive frontman Tim Kasher is rejoined here by original drummer Clint Schnase.
"I'm at my best when I'm at my worst," Tim Kasher declared on 2009's "From the Hips." On Vitriola, Cursive's first album in six years, he proves himself right. Cursive is also at their best when they have stakes and focus in their own artistic expression: Domestica with divorce, Happy Hollow with religion and The Ugly Organ with art itself. These albums have been Cursive's biggest and most resonant statements.