This Cursive Is Too Messy

It’s really easy to screw up a concept album. Don’t get me wrong, there do exist truly phenomenal concept albums like The Who’s “Tommy” or Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” I’ll even admit Green Day’s “American Idiot” was pretty enjoyable. But albums like these are successful because they contain narratives reflective of universal themes that listeners of the time can relate to. That’s probably the most crucial aspect of a concept album that Omaha indie rock band Cursive fails to recognize with their new release, “I Am Gemini.”

In frontman Tim Kasher’s words, the narrative is “a tale of Cassius and Pollock, twin brothers separated at birth, one good and one evil, their unexpected reunion in a house that is not a home ignites a classic struggle for the soul.” This could sound like an interesting concept if Kasher’s lyrics weren’t so confusing and at some points just plain random.

The lyric sheet to the album is structured like a libretto, complete with stage direction as lyrics. Yes, there really is an instance where Kasher sings “It sure has been a leper’s life living in these shadows / [Reconsiders to himself] / No that’s not quite right / [Continues]” in the track “The Sun and the Moon.” This is just one of many examples of Cursive’s pretentious decisions with their songwriting, and the fact that it fails to engage the listener just renders the idea of the concept album useless.

It also doesn’t help that the narrative is clouded by clichés of “cat and mouse-playing,” and bizarre characters like conjoined Siamese twin sisters, angels and devils. The emotions are present in the narrative, but the listener has to take the time to read into the lyrics while listening to the album to feel anything. Honestly, it doesn’t seem worth that much effort.

This isn’t to say that the album is completely terrible, though. Fans of Cursive can appreciate the instrumentation of most of the tracks, especially the opening track “This House Alive” and “The Sun and the Moon.”  Musically, the album is definitive of Cursive’s emo and post-hardcore background, and at some points is enjoyable to listen to, lyrics aside. Unfortunately, there are quite a few moments where the music takes a weird turn due to the change in narrative with various instances of rambling and various pitched melodies on tracks such as “Twin Dragon / Hello Skeleton.” There really isn’t a song that is completely devoid of the weirdness due to the concept album, but it depends on the palate of the listener.

Kasher’s vocals aren’t too inventive, either; they’re pretty generic and heavily reminiscent of Jon Foreman of Switchfoot’s vocal aggression and Dexter Holland of The Offspring’s melodic, slightly grating singing style. But Kasher’s sharp attitude really comes out in his delivery, and that makes one of the few strong points in this album.

Production on this album is decent, again lacking anything truly special but definitely not a lo-fi recording. There are some nice reverb touches and added distortion effects that go along with the lyrics, but the sound is definitely raw and gritty.

“I Am Gemini” won’t win any new converts for Cursive; in fact it might alienate some of the existing fans. The concept album approach Cursive attempts here is ultimately just a pretentious move on their part because it’s just so hard to relate to and frankly doesn’t seem worth the effort for a new fan to dig that deep in an otherwise obscure indie rock record.

Rating: 2 out of 5