Cursive - Mama, I'm Swollen
Record Label: Saddle Creek
Release Date: March 1, 2009
Ever since being introduced to Cursive, first through a friend, and later through an impulse buy of The Ugly Organ, I've been somewhat obsessed. Soon after purchasing the aforementioned album, I took a trip through Happy Hollow and was thoroughly impressed, despite most peoples' opinions that it's in some way inferior to their previous work. With the shift from the emphasis being placed on the horns instead of the cello as it was in The Ugly Organ, they basically found a way to completely redefine their sound again. Even as the young "Cursive-ite" that I was, this taught me one thing: I can't come to expect anything from a Cursive album. Mama, I'm Swollen proves this point yet again.
Anyone familiar with vocalist Tim Kasher's side project, The Good Life, is instantly going to correlate it with this album. Sure, they've toned down the dissonance quite a bit from the two previous albums, but it's still undeniably a Cursive album. The only track that really seems to fit into the formula more for The Good Life than Cursive is "Caveman" due to its catchy and upbeat nature. Sure, there are comparisons here, but Cursive definitely has their own sound, despite sharing Kasher with his side project.
There are tracks on this album that, in my opinion, seem to span the gap between their previous albums rather well. "From the Hips" for example, reminds me quite a bit of The Ugly Organ if only because of Kasher's quiet delivery in the beginning and the huge escalation near the end of the song. "Mama, I'm Satan," one of the best tracks, seems to bridge the gap between this and Happy Hollow pretty well too. Cursive does well to change up their sound, however, and they've managed to incorporate a new groove to this album that does bring in a much more subdued sound in many places. Kashers lyrics and vocals still shine, as do the rest of the musicians. Despite all of this, however, this album finds a way to be slightly disappointing.
It's probably only a letdown to me in the sense that it's not exactly what I expect out of Cursive. I mean, their previous three albums are all but flawless, but Mama, I'm Swollen unfortunately cannot support that claim. It's still a thoroughly enjoyable record, and it's leagues beyond what I'd expect from most of the run-of-the-mill bands roaming about in today's "scene." There are, however, a few missteps that I wouldn't have expected; namely in the form of the track "We're Going to Hell." "We're Going to Hell" just didn't deserve any place on this album; it drags for far too long and never takes off. While this is the only really "skippable" track, the first two-thirds of the album just seems to drag a little bit, and while it has its gems, most of the tracks just don't seem up to par with their previous work.
Despite my few qualms with the album, it's still one full of talent and is actually a great listen. I still am going to enjoy it quite a bit, and it has definite high points, such as "Mama, I'm Satan," "From the Hips," and really the last four tracks of the album. While I'll take this over most any other bands any day, I was just expecting a little bit more of this release than I maybe should have. As it stands now, this record is two things: a slight disappointment in my eyes, but still one damn fine album.
I realize it seems in a few places here I'm contradicting myself, but in my head it works. That is, I know not to expect anything particular out of Cursive, but I in no way saw them going in this direction. By the first mention of it, I was basically addressing that they constantly evolve their sound and won't make the same album twice. I probably should have said that somewhere in the review, but this will serve as clarification.