Wednesday, July 19, 2006

the not-so happy hollow

"Happy Hollow"
(Saddle Creek)

Unlike some of their Saddle Creek brethren, Cursive hasn't been successfully baited by major labels or found themselves to be objectified as sex symbols. In fact, the band is probably revered for singer Tim Kasher's heart-on-sleeve-yet-multi-symbolic lyrics, a loving tribute to bands of yesteryear such as Rites of Spring. Following a year-long break, Kasher and his Cursive company return to bring us "Happy Hollow," a departure from 2003's "The Ugly Organ."

Almost immediately, "Hollow" presents itself as less of a moody record and more of the type of rock & roll concept record that Cursive is able to craft. The change is probably due to the much publicized exit of cellist Gretta Cohn; as is such, the band have traded strings for horns, which are prominent in the lead single "Dorthy At Forty."

Much of the album builds on allusions to "Wizard of Oz," but also find time to hit some social commentary through tracks like "Big Bang" and "So-So Gigolo," the latter featuring some lead guitar parts straight out of the Slash book of riffs.

When compared to "The Ugly Organ," Cursive is obviously evolving, not unlike Weezer or Jimmy Eat World. "Organ" may be considered their peak as a band, but "Happy Hollow" further solidfies Kasher's place in Saddle Creek as their most underrated, yet most prolific, songwriter; and while "Hollow's" usage of horns can be construed a misstep since, at face value, Cursive comes off more like a New Orleans marching band rather than the people who brought us "Burst and Bloom." Then again, if this band didn't take chances then we wouldn't have something like "Domestica" or "The Ugly Organ" to hold in such high regard. While I wouldn't say that this is Cursive's best album, it's very strong and reminds us that at one point there was a Cursive without the cello.


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