|Photo by: stereogum|
Key Tracks: “The Sun and The Moon,” “Double Dead,” “Gemini”
Omaha, Nebraska prog-rockers Cursive have got a story to tell--that is, one of twin brothers Cassius and Pollock, one good and one evil, separated at birth only to reunite in a house “that is not a home,” ultimately ending in a struggle of the soul. Leave it to Cursive front man Tim Kasher to explore the depths of the most complex internal conflict on the band’s seventh studio release, I Am Gemini.
If there were a recommended place to listen to this Cursive album (or any other one, for that matter) it would be alone, in a dimly-lit room while a menacing storm rages outside; the group’s eerie sound is best set to a backdrop of similar fashion. A concept album has become expected from the band at this point, and I Am Gemini is exactly that.
In 13 compact songs, or chapters, a dramatic story is woven throughout the lyrics, building linearly until the sweeping finale. In perfect order, I Am Gemini creates a theatrical play by way of musical expression and delves into the deepest reaches of emotion, from greed, abuse, angst, aggression and even slight hints of dissociative identity disorder.
The album starts off with “This House Alive,” a track packed with rhythmic beats that steadily gain speed and urgency, launching into the mind of the twin brothers, pleading to “make these voices go away.” The song introduces the mood of the entire album, with syncopated, driving chords that vary almost frantically, much like the storyline itself.
As the album progresses, common themes shine through, such as symmetry and balance. Almost ironically, though, each song lacks just this--any sort of consistent tempo. Each song is an experiment in dynamics, one such example being “Drunken Birds.” As the characters “weave through sycamores,” so too does the pace, rapidly driving at some moments, while softly creeping at others. Kasher’s crisp vocals carry each song to the next cleanly, sometimes shrieking and other times pristinely keening. In true Cursive tradition, several tunes end in cooing, coercive whispers that make the listener question whether it’s Kasher or their own psyche murmuring to them.
The climax is undoubtedly embedded within “Gemini,” a booming track that takes all of the anticipation of the six tracks before it and explodes into a jagged maze of both mind-bending lyrics and warpy guitar riffs. Kasher’s vocals culminate into yearning screams of “Somebody’s building a monster I see / And the parts look a lot like mine.” Just as intriguingly, the closing track "Eulogy for No Name" begins with gentle, wispy vocals before ending with a full-force grand finale of crashing instrumentals.
The draw of I Am Gemini is the undeniable storyline that pulls the listener in, waiting to know each twin brother’s next move and how the tale will tragically end. Once started, there’s an investment and a sort of respect that needs to be paid to make it through all of Gemini.
Undeniably, it is not Cursive’s most musically genius album. Past hits have set the bar high for powerful, prog-rock originals that have garnered the band a loyal fan base. However, Gemini is an intellectual journey rather than a casual listen; thus, the first listen will not be the most enjoyable. With time, however, Cassius and Pollock’s story will become so engrained in the mind of the listener that they may wonder if they have a long-lost brother themself.
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