Review: Cursive – I Am Gemini (2012)
Heavy. I Am Gemini is a chunky record for Cursive in terms of sound and content behind the concept of Cassius and Pollock, two twins reunited and the ensuing infernal consequences. Written sequentially, track after track, the latest album trumps Mama, I’m Swollen and Happy Hollow in grandeur. It abandons the downtempo, alt-country influences heard on “We’re Going to Hell” and “Caveman” for the restrained post-hardcore bursts of “The Sun and Moon” and “Drunken Birds,” the latter feeling more The Storms of Early Summer: Semantics of Song than recent years’ releases. Tim Kasher ups his songwriting ambition on this, and approaching I Am Gemini from a pure music standpoint, tossing aside the lyrics and story created, would be a mistake of any listener; thus mistakingly relegating it into the “Cursive was better in the past” bin. In fact, peek at the liner notes…screenplay would be a more befitting name…with characters and stage directions provided for the listener.
“This House Alive” begins Act I. before words are uttered with Kasher providing the backstory of Cassius inheriting a home from “his unknown biological parents” after a car accident. As you read along, and listen as Cassius enters “the house for the first time,” you hear the door close and footsteps on floorboards in the song, accompanying a dizzying whirl before Cassius/Kasher begins. The whole atmosphere he established feels like unbeknowingly being duped into a haunted, disturbed-to-the-basement-furnance, house. It’s in “Warmer, Warmer” that we first meet Pollock observing Cassius, and I Am Geminibegins to take off…
Pollock – “Warmer, warmer, house on fire / Warmer, warmer, cut the telephone wire / Warmer, warmer, cried the farmer’s wife / Warmer, warmer, with a carving knife…”
Pollock soon tunes into Cassius’ weakness in introducing himself on “The Sun and Moon”, “Who’s that misfit sitting in the corner? The things that kid did are cloistered like a coma…” And the weaker of the two gives in to Pollock, “Who was there when you dined with Dionysus? Who do you think that was, nourishing your hubris?” Thus, the two are reunited into a deviously liquored stupor leading up to the end of Act 1 with Pollock performing an operation with little disclosure on what exactly has been done. With Act 1 complete, the second begins with curtains opening and audible claps on “Twin Dragon/Hello Skeleton” as the eternal (or internal) struggle of the twins truly commences and leads to a carefully crafted revelation in the final scene…
Cursive has given its salvo in the argument of is the album a viable, living format with I Am Gemini. Without the entire work, plucked to pieces, à la carte listeners will be woefully deficient of the full-length. It not only was created to be consumed in one sitting, but to do otherwise would be as profane as the devils that dance around Pollock and Cassius, akin to seeing 20 minutes of a feature film, or a fraction of a finished canvas. It’s easy for writers to declare such things in reviewing albums, but Kasher and the rest of the group proves its essentiality. Each song corresponds and illustrates the scene, albeit without the screenplay/liner notes to follow, you lose track of who’s who (unlike in Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown). I’ll give it to Kasher though, since it does deal with twins and he is the voice of Cassius and Pollock (and the narrator, and Young Cassius).
Highlights? Those pivotal moments in the story encompassed by “The Sun and Moon,” “Drunken Birds,” “Gemini,” “Wowowow,” and “The Cat and Mouse.” But if you think you can pick apart the pieces, you’re mistaken. Take I Am Gemini in as a whole and, depending on your personality (or how many you have), accompanied by that “old elixir.”