Review Summary: Cursive creates a depressing, beautiful masterpiece of a relationship gone awry.
A person’s emotional state is always important on the decisions they make. For example, I’m feeling mostly uncreative and clichéd, so I’m starting off with this completely unoriginal opening. My emotional state is also very important in musical selections I’ve made. I’ve subsided mainly on bombastic self-pitying emo/hardcore and bleak self-pitying indie for the past half of a year, because I’ve been in some sort of rut of depression for just as long. So, when Cursive’s Domestica was described to me as the best post-hardcore album besides At the Drive-in’s Relationship of Command, I had to, of course, get the album as soon as possible.
Another detail that helped me enjoy the album even more was the fact that I had to write a short story for my creative writing class. Due to this, I was in desperate need of overly pretentious metaphors to use and prove how much of a deep thinker I was and Tim Kasher’s lyrics definitely got me going in the right direction. Proclamations such as “Your tears are only alibis/To prove you still feel/You only feel sorry for yourself/And that’s how you find/Your sorrow’s a gold mine”
and “Some lies last a lifetime/They keep our diaries hidden/They don’t let the whispers slip/Between the cracks of the bathroom stalls/Or be written on the bathroom walls”
struck me hard, and almost made me consider not even trying to write anything, knowing I could never achieve something as profound as that.
Kasher also does a tremendous job of creating a concept album of sorts centered around an abusive couple only known to the listener as “Pretty Baby” and “Sweetie”. Each song is told from one of the character’s perspective and is a really truthful glimpse into a broken relationship, as Kasher wrote the majority of the album after a nasty divorce, though the same fate doesn’t hold true for Pretty Baby and Sweetie, which may be the most depressing aspect of the album. Through all of the lies, the cheating, and the abuse, the two stay together.
The sound of the album is most reminiscent of Fugazi’s 13 Songs
, except, it’s a lot more interesting. The bass is great, as Matt Maginn always sets a terrific little groove to get you dancing your seat. The drums compliment the bass very well, and while never doing anything spectacular, they do the job their assigned to do perfectly. One of the highlights of the album is the break in “The Lament of Pretty Baby” where everything stops and all that can be heard is Clint Schnase banging on his drums, and while it is not anything truly spectacular, it fits the music perfectly and is like a catharsis of the characters. Kasher and Steve Pedersen play guitar on the album and there sound is the most reminiscent of Fugazi, often using a palm-muted method usually connected to the band.
Despite having a rough and grating voice for first-time listeners, Kasher is one of the better vocalists I’ve heard. He always stays perfectly in character on the record, never shouting where it doesn’t fit and always infusing the perfect amount of emotion into each note. When Kasher does sing clean, it is a lot easier to get into than his shouting voice, but once you hear it enough, it really ceases to become a problem and it soon becomes one of the highlights of the album.
What Cursive succeeds in most on this album is keeping it simple. While some bands try to make concept albums with complex, intricate storylines, Cursive keeps their concept simple. All Kasher is trying to do is document the pain he felt through his breakup and trying to help other people relate to it. The rest of the band follows to create a canvas and let Kasher’s words paint a masterpiece.