Cursive
Vitriola


4.0
excellent

Review

by Channing Freeman STAFF
October 6th, 2018 | 119 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Don't wanna live in the now. Don't wanna know what I know.

Cursive have had a long and strange existence. Domestica, while an important and influential indie album, did not portend great success for the band. Ugly and sometimes even unpleasant, full of sharp corners and shitty people, any catchiness present seemed more like a cruel joke, a jolt of false hope in a hopeless situation. Bands who write music like that don’t get popular. And that band didn’t, because their breakout success, The Ugly Organ, sounded completely different from Domestica. Happy Hollow, in turn, sounded mostly different from The Ugly Organ. And so on for 20 years, for an entire career.

Until now, that is. Vitriola hearkens back to The Ugly Organ days, bringing back not only the famous cello but all the original band members to boot. It’s not exactly the same, but there are definite parallels. The cello is an obvious one, but others are subtler. The vibe is certainly similar, but most of all, that sneaking suspicion that I used to have while listening to Cursive has returned: I think that Tim Kasher is eternally waking up to the realization that no one gives a shit about him or his music. It doesn’t matter if the realization is true or not. This goes all the way back to “Some Red-Handed Sleight of Hand”, “Art is Hard”, and above all, “What Have I Done?”. He has always written about writing, and he has always chastised himself for doing it, usually in the same song. But he was never just writing about the physical process of writing; he was writing about the effects of writing, of putting your words into the world and watching as they return – or more likely, don’t return – in a way that edifies and illuminates and justifies the time you spent doing it. In "Ouroboros", he is the snake eating its tail, finding out that at the end of the stick, there's just a single fucking carrot.

Vitriola rejects music as a positive force. The world, which Kasher once called a placenta in “Let Me Up”, is now a “turd” in need of polishing, an inherently repulsive object that can only be improved in a way that hides its true nature. “Pick up the pieces, give a fuck,” he sings, but the dour music underscores the defeat and desperation in his voice, and his phrasing recalls an earlier lyric: “There was a big bang once, we were left to fill in the blanks.” This album finds Kasher engaging with capitalism in a way not heard since “Dorothy at Forty”, but while that song pointed out the excesses of the stereotypical American dream, songs like “Under the Rainbow” lament the deletion of that dream from our lives. Maybe it was always futile, but at least it was something to work toward. Now, “the 1% lives in high rises, blocking out the sun,” and we are left with “no God, no gold, nowhere to go.” “Remorse”, with its dreamy piano, is the prettiest song on the album – maybe the only one that could be called pretty – but even that one ends with what sounds like the piano strings being cut.

“There’s no future, only money. No me and you, only money.” All this shit adds up, and by the time “Noble Soldier/Dystopian Lament” rolls around to put the album out of its misery, our protagonist has given up. He sings of all the things he used to do and care about, all the things that just don’t matter anymore. All those stabbing guitar chords couldn’t poke enough holes into the ballooning despair that threatens to swallow the world. Vitriola has the perfect name, suggesting a hate-spewing gramophone, grinding records into dust. There is no joyful anthem at the end, no “Staying Alive”. All this record can offer is solidarity to the hopeless and a dwindling expectation that the jagged teeth of the ugly organ won’t cut too deeply.

Oh, and some dubious advice: “Don’t lose your head. You can’t afford to lose that.”



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user ratings (74)
Chart.
4
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
clavier
Contributing Reviewer
October 6th 2018


789 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

was waiting on a review for this, really good album and a very pleasant surprise

Digging: portrayal of guilt - Portrayal of Guilt

Dettlaff
October 6th 2018


61 Comments


I've only listened to The Ugly Organ, which is superb. Sounds like this is worth hearing.

clavier
Contributing Reviewer
October 6th 2018


789 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

this album is as close to being a spiritual successor of The Ugly Organ as Cursive albums get

brainmelter
October 6th 2018


5883 Comments


been hearing great things, can't wait to check

Digging: Yellow Eyes - The Desert Mourns

widowslaugh123
October 6th 2018


1047 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Pos. You described this perfectly

JustJoe.
October 6th 2018


5069 Comments


Always good to read a Chan review.

Digging: Boards of Canada - Music Has the Right to Children

coldheaven
October 6th 2018


4587 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

YAS

Digging: mewithoutYou - [Untitled]

FreddieDelaney31
October 6th 2018


4802 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Mega pos

Digging: Daughters - You Won't Get What You Want

Scoot
October 6th 2018


19100 Comments


yeah this is easily better than anything since tuo

hogan900
October 6th 2018


2805 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

chan! chan! chan! chan!

zakalwe
October 6th 2018


25790 Comments


Perma brat, plinky bollocks.

Lucman
October 6th 2018


1057 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yay, sweet review, Chan! Such a great record. Rocks for days.

Digging: mewithoutYou - [Untitled]

coldheaven
October 6th 2018


4587 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It puts me right back to when I was 18 hearing The Ugly Organ for the first time. SADDLE CREEK 2K3 REPRESENT

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
October 6th 2018


153 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it somehow doesn't feel right that this album isn't released by saddle creek

Veldin
October 6th 2018


3561 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, when I was 13 (25 now), Saddle Creek was the COOLEST thing ever. Bright Eyes and Curisve were the height of that religion. Saddened to see this not released via SC but extremely happy to hear the best Cursive album in years (and I loved Happy Hollow, Mama and Gemini).

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
October 6th 2018


153 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it's not too sad, they started their own label that seems pretty successful so far



i am an avowed mama, i'm swollen supporter. some of his best lyrics on there. gemini is ok but not nearly as good

widowslaugh123
October 6th 2018


1047 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Gemini grew on me HARD and now is probably my favorite cursive record. Mama is great but maybe the worst post Domestica album.

Veldin
October 7th 2018


3561 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

didn't realize this was on their own label, right on. Indeed, Mama has some of Kasher's best. And I Am Gemini is fantastic and I got to see them twice on that tour, which elevated the songs. I'm also a huge fan of Kasher's band The Good Life's "Album of the Year" LP & the accompanying "Lovers Need Lawyers" EP.

Veldin
October 7th 2018


3561 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Oh! and everyone who hasn't heard it should jam the track "Ten Percent to the Ten Percent" by Cursive (available on Spotify and such, on a Saddle Creek benefit album). It actually fits in with this album ^__^ "Fuck you and your job AND I'LL SHIT WHERE I WANT"

botb
October 7th 2018


11899 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Can see myself bumping this. It’s amazing.



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