Review Summary: Cursive's debut, 11 distortion soaked, emotion ridden songs, comes off as a younger, worse, version of the band's breakthrough Domestica. Such Blinding Stars for Starving Eyes
was released at a time when many of the things that define Cursive today had yet to occur. Lead singer Tim Kasher’s divorce, a topic that reoccurs on many Cursive (and Kasher’s side project, The Good Life) songs, was still in the future. Guitarist/backing vocalist Ted Stevens had yet to join and the use of cellos and horns, instruments that are very much present on the group’s later albums, are nowhere to be found. The album isn’t put out by Saddle Creek Records, the label that would come to release most of the band’s later material. Even Kasher’s voice, which Pitchfork has gone as far as to describe as “the worst great voice in indie rock”, seems like it has a lot of growing to do.
Despite all this, Such Blinding Stars for Starving Eyes
still sounds like Cursive, just a Cursive that is still a little rough around the edges. Such is displayed at the get-go, with tracks one and two, After the Movies
and Downhill Racers
. The somewhat restrained opening minute of the former sounds like it could easily have a place on Domestica. The song maintains its slower tempo, even when Kasher starts screaming at the top of his voice. This screaming is probably the weakest part of the entire album. Where the screaming on Domestica is top notch, Kasher’s screaming on Such Blinding Stars
sounds quite a bit younger, a whole lot different and worse overall. The latter of the two opening tracks is a very Pavement-esque affair, and a definite standout. Kasher’s screaming reappears in the choruses, where he shouts lyrics “All my limbs/They're just tools/Duplicated, mass produced”
overtop the kind of sublime guitar/bass interplay Cursive are known for.
The rest of album sort of goes downhill from here. Nothing really sticks out from the pile of quiet-loud-quiet formulas, overly distorted guitars, and Kasher’s highly personal lyrics. Songs like Target Group
, a four minute and thirty second distortion fest, epitomize this. Eight Light Minutes
, the album’s shortest track, break away but do so quite poorly. Coming off as Cursive’s attempt at making their own version of Pavement’s 5-4=unity
, Eight Light Minutes is mostly instrumental, featuring noisy, fast paced guitar leads reminiscent of many 90’s Indie acts. Kasher’s only lyrical contribution comes towards the end when he mumbles “I'll wear it out/But it's just eight light minutes I'm offering you/We could burn up so close/We could burn to our cores”
over one of the song’s quieter moments.
Thankfully, Such Blinding Stars
picks up a bit towards the end, with the last three tracks getting progressively better. Even this, combined with the strong start can’t stop me from summing up my review by calling Cursive’s debut what it really is: a younger, far worse, version of Domestica. On said CD, Tim Kasher can be heard shouting “Your sorrow’s a gold mine”
. If Kasher’s divorce was what spawned Domestica, he couldn’t be right.