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Call it a comprehensive body of work - not simply a collection of songs. Carefully pieced together with fragile shards of sanity, loss and heartache, tempered with apathy, Cursive's latest album The Ugly Organ is presented as a whole. Even the liner notes are written much like a stage production - with cues for actors and instrument intros.
Packed with powerful imagery, angst-ridden and regretful, it often turns on itself with disgust for the ironic pretentiousness contained therein. Each track is performed with fervent emotion and passion, charging the listener with an undeniable urge to move with the downbeats. Dissonant guitars and erratic beats, garnished by unexpected appearances of an organ, a marimba, and church bells all carefully wrapped in the soothing yet at times tearing cello solos make this a disc hard to remove from the player.
Cursive continues its 8-year career with The Ugly Organ, an increasingly personal album from Vocalist Tim Kasher. Building on the foundation laid by their breakthrough Domestica (Saddle Creek, 2000), each song is revealing his personal progress (or should I say regression) in its own way.
Track #3, "Art is Hard," flat out attacks the current situation of the "emo" scene - and how Kasher has grown tired of the trend of regurgitating the story of 'boy loses girl'. He repeatedly hints at this theme throughout the disc.
"The Recluse" is a track about emotional self-discovery in a time of desperation, sang seductively and, dare I say, "Cure-esque." The cello parts are drawn artfully and move the core of the listener. It's become a personal favorite.
"Butcher the Song" starts out with a beat like a nervous heart: perhaps addressing how it might feel to be on the other side of Kasher or perhaps a random lover, fearing their personal business would be aired on the next CD or live show ("…each album I get shit on a little more/Who's Tim's latest whore").
Perhaps his failure to maintain some sort of level of trust with each girl is the reason behind him justifying the reasons for writing the way he does. And again, he expresses his disgust for "emo" and its hunger for music that exploits personal tragedy for entertainment.
Buffering "Driftwood: A Fairy Tale" and "A Gentleman Caller," a haunting introductory piece bridges the gap where silence would appear on a normal disc. These uneasy interludes set the stage for further understanding Kasher's mood. There are more of these interludes on the disc as well, perpetuating the theme.
The album wraps up with "Staying Alive", where Kasher greets the threshold of depression and turns away from it. The angelic choir echoing "The Worst is Over" (a reprise from "A Gentleman Caller") signals the close of the CD, much like the end of a stage production. One can almost picture the solo actor standing in the spotlight as the parted curtain slowly lowers to hide him. It's a grand finale to a spectacular disc, hinting at a taste of even greater things to come from Cursive.
Michelle Lawlor is a Contributing Writer. Contact her at email@example.com.