REVIEW: CURSIVE – MAMA, I’M SWOLLEN (2009)
Mama, I’m Swollen was ‘released’ a bit over a week ago and has proven to be the most difficult album to wrestle with. Previous albums held solid themes (the chef-d’oeuvre example being Domestica), though gradually this has dissipated with a discography resembling Picasso than anything. The newest Cursive album is dark, reflective of both the depth of the lyrics as well as the bleak album art of a red, bloody sun over a dark ocean.
Now, it’s not as chest-cavingly depressing as could be mistaken. But it’s twisted towards soul-searching, Man against the Sea variety. “Are these the best tales I can spin? A boy waiting to begin?” Kasher continuously recounts these thoughts, edging between infant and adult, between shapeless and formed and constantly questioning where one begins, the other ends, and if the realization will hit during the transition. Nevertheless, the frustration remains. “I am the egg! I am the spark! The fire in the dark! I am fertilized, fully-actualized! I’m a loaded gun!” “I am the joke of all existence. I am no one…burning beneath your blood red Sun.”
This album is not the response to Happy Hollow, but more or less mirrors Art Is Hard in questioning his art, himself and what’s to be unveiled. “Are these the best tales I can spin? A boy waiting to begin?” He intends to tackle this, revealed at the end, from the beginning, stating this was going to be “my Moby Dick.” What Cursive does with this album, admittedly, doesn’t live up to the grandiose musicianship from the viewpoint of those orchestrated, flourishing soundtracks that have been with the group in recent albums. This feels rooted in Burst and Bloom than anything.
Evidently, the genius lies in the lyrics with this album, possibly his strongest (time will tell). Intentional or not, he does hearken towards the EP on We’re Going to Hell, hinting at Edgar Allen Poe’s tale beating within, and underneath, everyone. “We act so civilized-devils in tuxedos. Our sordid hearts are far too hard to hide; ‘What’s that ‘neath the floorboards?’” While the flourishes remain, they’re subtle, subversive to what we know about Cursive from albums before. Mama, I’m Swollen is difficult, but could become renown as Kasher’s best work yet in time. Just don’t let this album gather dust…