Album Reviews


Mama, I’m Swollen
(Saddle Creek Records)

Cursive have always been a bit of a dark horse. Never really breaking through to mainstream prominence in the UK, their raw and slightly wonky approach to indie rock has spawned many a copycat act and their brutally honest music-making has clearly inspired many. Vocalist Tim Kasher has rather an unusual tone which is smooth and abrasive in equal measures. When he really lets rip on the higher notes is when you really feel his pain / joy but there is such a wide range of dynamics and nuances in his vocal that he really encompasses every emotion known to man.

Mama, I’m Swollen‘ sees the band revert somewhat to the days of ‘Domestica‘ with a slightly less shiney production. Having said that, lush instrumental sections such as the one implemented in ‘From The Hips‘ are still present echoing the musically ambitious parts of previous albums ‘The Ugly Organ‘ and ‘Happy Hollow‘.

Knowing how to write a catchy melody is one thing but the ability to corrupt this with wonky time signatures and unusual pauses without losing the vitality or appeal of the melody is an entirely different thing and one that only few bands are able to do effectively. This is what Cursive do so well, subverting perfectly good melodies with nuances of vocal, instrumentation or rhythm. ‘I Couldn’t Love You‘ is the perfect example of this knack of making the simple slightly more complicated yet still just as effective. Cursive also have the knack of crafting lyrics that are half abstract and half very easy to identify with. A line every now and again will make you think ‘oh yeah, I feel like that’ and then Kasher will sing ‘we may be donkeys but at least we have a tail to tell’ and you’ll be like ‘what? I didn’t quite catch that…’ So, it’s safe to say that this is a band who know how to engage listeners, create a tune AND keep things interesting both musically and lyrically.

Mama, I’m Swollen‘ is Cursive at their best, playing on heartstrings, evoking pain and joy, playing out a rollicking good tune – these are all things exemplified on the record and what is safe to say is that this band could clearly go on to write another 10 records. Their musicality and originality is not about to leave them any time soon. Wonderfully dark and perfectly crafted ‘Mama, I’m Swollen‘ is a must for fans and those who may not have heard of the band but like their indie-rock to have a touch of the bizarre about it. Cursive – truly emotional before the word emo became as sullied as it is today.

Sarah Maynard.