Tim Kasher has long been one of my favorite artists. I grew up seeing him perform with Slowdown Virginia and Commander Venus in the mid-90’s heyday of Omaha’s local music scene, before the formation of Cursive; arguably the most important indie rock band to ever emerge from Nebraska. Given my background as a super-fan, I’m absolutely ecstatic to hear that Cursive is once again in the studio, laying down tracks for what will eventually become their seventh full length album.
Kasher’s body of work with Cursive is impressive. After two late-90’s albums with the original lineup, the group’s sound crystalized with the addition of second guitar player and occasional singer Ted Stevens. After the release of 2000’s excellent concept album ‘Domestica’, the band augmented their sound with the addition of cellist Greta Cohn for ‘The Ugly Organ’, widely celebrated as the band’s best effort and one indie rock’s best albums of 2003.
After parting ways with Cohn, Cursive once again revamped their sound, adding a five piece horn section for 2005’s wildly underrated LP ‘Happy Hollow’. It stands out today as my personal favorite of the Cursive canon. Kasher’s songwriting shines in this concept album, weaving characters through 14 related story-songs, tackling themes like war, infidelity and Catholicism without sacrificing the intensity and melodic sensibility of the band’s previous records.
The band kept the horn section but replaced longtime drummer Clint Schnase for 2009’s ‘Mama, I’m Swollen’. Mellower than previous Cursive records, the album seems darker, drier, more introspective, and more concerned with atmospherics than its predecessors. Vocally, Kasher exchanges much of the agonized wailing that had become his trademark for a more reserved, narrative role.
The question is, what will Cursive try next? Perhaps there are clues to be found in ‘The Game of Monogomy’, Tim Kasher’s first solo album, released last fall. Thematically, Kasher once again grapples with domestic strife, infidelity, and religion. He skews orchestral in his arrangements, trading the distortion and dissonance of early Cursive for lush strings and multi-part horn sections and the occasional electronic beat. Standout tracks ‘Cold Love’ and ‘I’m Afraid I’m Gonna Die Here’ rank among the most solid tunes to ever come from Kasher’s pen, but for every true pop gem on the record there seem to be two total clunkers, like the plodding ‘Strays’ and the yawn-inducing ‘Prodigal Husband’. These throwaways serve to advance the storyline, but do little in the way of giving the listener much of a payoff.
As a long time fan, I selfishly root against his happiness, knowing that much of his best material is culled from the the painful decline and fall of failed relationships. I also worry that Tim Kasher’s status as a tenured indie rock lifer may push him toward complacency. It’s a terrible thing to envision, an artist losing his drive, but given Kasher’s propensity to reinvent himself sonically, I’m confident the next Cursive album will be every bit as good as I’ve grown to expect.
Cursive is currently holed up at Omaha’s ARC Studios, laying down tracks for a new record that will most likely see release sometime in 2012.
Tim Kasher – I’m Afraid I’m Gonna Die Here