Can Cursive’s I Am Gemini be successful in the shuffle-mode era?

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:42 pm February 7, 2012

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Cursive, I Am Gemini (2012, Saddle Creek Records)

Cursive, I Am Gemini (2012, Saddle Creek Records)

Since it’ll be discussed tonight at the event at the Shop at Saddle Creek, I figured I might as well share my initial thoughts/questions about Cursive’s new release, I Am Gemini, which comes out in two weeks, but will be available for purchase at tonight’s event.

Here they are: Can a concept album this tightly drawn, where each song is dependent on the other to tell a cohesive story, be successful in this singles-driven iTunes era we live in? Can the songs on I Am Gemini stand on their own, out of context, without the rest of the album? And how will a random, isolated track sound sandwiched between Lana Del Rey and Andrew Jackson Jihad during shuffle mode?

And does anyone even care about lyrics anymore?

Tim Kasher must think they do. The album comes with a “playbook” — basically a script of a play whose dialogue and direction are the lyrics of the album, so you can follow along as you sit down and listen to the album, presumably in its entirety, just like we used to back in the days before iPods.

By now you’ve already heard the album’s “plot:” identical twins — one good, one evil — separated at birth reunite at a house that they’ve inherited.  Along the way there’s angels and devils, Siamese twin sisters joined at the head, alternate-mirror realities and other assorted oddities. In the end (Spoiler Alert) the house blows up along with the main character(s). Many nods to Greek tragedies abound (thank god Tim wasn’t reading Beowulf). Some of you youngsters may want to keep your Google prompt on screen when you come across references to Sisyphus, Dionysus, Cassius, dead albatrosses and other literary tidbits.

I think there’s a Black Swan sort of dual-personality-destroying-your-evil-other thing going on. Only Kasher knows for sure, and I’m sure he’s going to get sick of having to explain it interview after interview after interview as the band tours the globe this year and next. Look, I minored in English (okay, it was at UNO) and I’m still not sure what all of it means. And in the end, does it matter? Will your typical teenager or 20-something give a shit or will they merely be entranced by the album’s meaty riffage? What you’ve heard is true about this being the hardest Cursive album since Domestica. It is brutal, but even more than that, it’s proggy — proggy enough to make the members of King Crimson and Roger Waters blush. At the very least, it’s an about-face from the apparent convergence of Cursive and The Good Life music-wise. There aren’t a lot of sing-along pop songs in this collection.

But there are indeed songs that can stand in isolation from the rest of the record (though lyrically, they don’t make a lot of sense). “The Sun and Moon,” taken completely out of context, can be read as a love song of sorts. “A Birthday Bash”  has one of the better guitar riffs Cursive’s ever put down on tape. That said, there are a few songs that seem to act as bridges between ideas, such as “The Cat and Mouse,” which aren’t so successful by themselves.

I’m going out on a limb here guessing that the band intends to play this album in sequence on tour, just like it was recorded. Maybe they’ll also pass out playbills at every gig. Maybe there will be costumes and a live angel/devil choir.

Anyway, I’m still figuring it out. A full review will come later (probably). In summation, it’s a modern-day indie rock opera more so than a rock musical. It’s also a message to the record-buying public that albums — rather than singles — still make sense and can still provide a holistic, theatrical experience if you’re willing to invest the time and keep your twitchy fingers off the shuffle button for just 43 minutes.

Hear it and decide for yourself tonight at 7 at the Saddle Creek Shop.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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