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Stories of note
Thursday, 23 February 2012
ImageUnique and endearingly imperfect, Cursive’s latest record reads like a book and plays like a musical

By Justin De La Rosa
It seems like a lot of albums that get released require no thought and aren’t very engaging for listeners. You just pop it on and let it spin. The lack of substance makes it too easy, too mindless. Luckily, there is a band out there that doesn’t just produce an album — it produces a listener-involved experience that stimulates your mind, both lyrically and musically.

Cursive
is a band that is notorious for its storytelling concept albums. The newest release from the native Nebraskans, I Am Gemini, follows in stride with their previous records. This time around, they put together a story that is more intricately woven than those that have preceded it.

In an interview with Local iQ, Cursive bassist Matt Maginn said the story told through I Am Gemini did not have to be pieced together after recording — the songs wrote themselves into a story. Maginn said Cursive’s front man, Tim Kasher, wrote the lyrics as a tale intended to be read from front to back.

“If we had re-sequenced after he had written the lyrics, it would have screwed up the story. I’m very happy with the sequence,” Maginn said. “That was kind of the plan — to present it as a story. He decided he was going to lay it out in a readable form.”

The duality of the Gemini zodiac sign is represented through the artwork, layout, music and lyrics of Cursive’s latest and most ambitious release. The story told is of two brothers, Cassius and Pollack, who were separated at birth. They unexpectedly reunite at their biological parents’ home and find that one is good and one is evil.

I Am Gemini
plays itself out like a musical and reads like a book. Each song contains a lyrical dialogue between characters that allows listeners to imagine their actions, their features and their expressions. The album’s booklet is written like the script for a play. The song titles are not included — there are only acts, character names and the lyrics. It requires listeners to pay close attention if they want to understand what is going on in the story.

When it came to the album’s artwork, they were drawn to the skills of Albuquerque’s own Jon Sanchez, aka Jonito. Sanchez had designed gig posters for Cursive several years ago, and when it came to decide on artwork, Maginn said they tried several other artists, but Sanchez got it right the first time.

“As soon as he sent the first sketch, we were like, ‘This is it, we got the right guy,’” he said. The artwork Sanchez created differed from others who jumped on the idea of twin brothers. “I feel like the cover leaves it a little more open for each person’s own interpretation,” said Maginn of Sanchez’s work that represents duality but does not impose an interpretation on listeners.

Cursive has seen band members come and go throughout the years, which has pushed the group to redefine its sound with each record. A cellist was part of 2003’s The Ugly Organ. Happy Hollow from 2006 featured horn players. In 2009, the band welcomed a new drummer, Cully Symington, for Mama I’m Swollen and the most recent record subtly refreshes the Omaha quartet’s sound.

Maginn said Symington’s drumming has brought a welcome element to the band. “He really brought a lot to the writing table from a drum standpoint. A lot of little nuances he’s done that really help out the songs,” said Maginn. Combine Symington’s skills with what Maginn described as their most “riff-heavy album since 2001’s Burst and Bloom,” and you have I Am Gemini.

Much like the style of handwriting, Cursive is individualistic, with an endearing quality of imperfection. The band has always been rough around the edges, with a dissonance that works as a great accompaniment to Kasher’s seemingly dark lyrical tales. Melodic, yet heavy, its sound is audibly honest.

The past few times I’ve seen Cursive in Albuquerque, the shows have been packed — and with good reason. They have a powerful live performance and presence. It’s an enthralling experience that will leave you with a hunger for stories in your songs.

Cursive
7p, Tue., Feb. 28
Launchpad
618 Central SW, 505.764.8887
$15
Tickets: holdmyticket.com
launchpadrocks.com
cursivearmy.com
 
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