‘… We sequenced the entire album before I tackled the lyrics, which was a new process for us.’ This is what Cursive’s frontman, Tim Kasher, told me in my interview with him a few weeks back. ‘New processes’ are all over the band’s forthcoming seventh album, ‘I Am Gemini’, about which a lot has been said pre-release about it being ‘the heaviest Cursive album in years’. This was implied in a musical context, but it could just as easily have been applied to the album’s concept, which is ambitious, even for Kasher: two twins are separated at birth; one chooses to be good, and the other is drawn towards evil. Neither is aware of the existence of the other until they are suddenly thrown together, their true natures having come to light.
Such notions of conflict are present in the music, of course. ‘I Am Gemini’, as a whole, is the album on which the band get back to their roots, but there are plenty of new things thrown into the mix as well, and it is the interplay between all these different things that makes for such a fascinating listen. This is an album that is accessible throughout, yet never afraid to take risks.
It is the middle section of the album that is perhaps the most inventive: the changes of time signature and dynamics that are present in ‘Double Dead’ line up nicely next to the prog-pop structure of ‘Gemini’, before the two-parter ‘Twin Dragon/Hello Skeleton’ establishes itself as the album’s centrepiece – six minutes of the band at the absolute top of their game. Coming out the other side of this is ‘Wowowow’, the one song on the album that is closest to older Cursive material, taking what’s gone before and going in all manner of different directions with it.
Being a concept album, ‘I Am Gemini’ has a natural flow. It tells the story of Cassius (the good twin) and Pollock (the evil twin); the first six songs are from the former’s perspective, and the latter is introduced in ‘Gemini’. We then get a song from Pollock’s perspective (‘Twin Dragon/Hello Skeleton’) before the two finally meet in ‘Wowowow’. This leads to a confrontation in a house that is not a home (‘The Cat and Mouse’), before Pollock gains the upper hand in ‘A Birthday Bash’ and blows the house sky-high, killing them both in the process. The coda, ‘Eulogy for No Name’, ties up loose ends with a flourish.
Kasher’s storytelling is only half of it, however: musical themes run through the album, and plenty of development takes place too, giving the album a sense of cohesion that is crucial to full understanding of the plot and the two brothers’ differing points of view. It helps, too, that there isn’t a single sub-par song on the record – granted, one weak link and the whole thing would have suffered – but the quality of the material is so strong that, pound-for-pound, it is the best Cursive album in, oh, about nine years.
Early single ‘The Sun and Moon’ works much better in album context, slotting nicely between the unnerving ‘Warmer Warmer’ and powerful ‘Drunken Birds’, and there’s a considerable amount of ground covered – even more than its 43-minute running time would suggest. It delights in its complexity, and sounds accomplished on a whole number of different levels. In more ways than one, Cursive are back.
Posted by Gareth O’Malley