Album Review: Cursive - 'I Am Gemini'

24 June 2012 | 10:02 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

Thought-provoking progressive post-hardcore. Not perhaps for all tastes, but full of artistic merit.

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This review was a little late off the mark, it must be said. This album was released in February, but only now am I reviewing it. Cursive are, on paper, exactly the sort of band I'd love. Post-hardcore, full of noisy bits, with a progressive and conceptual lean. So I couldn't help myself here. Cursive are known for their concepts, and this trend continues in this album. It has a very defined concept. According to the band, it is about a pair of twins, one good, one evil, who are reunited in their family home with dire consequences on the former. Whilst this is the blurb the band's record label gave in regards to it, from actual listening it sounds more like a projection of the protagonist's own "Dark Half", a la Steven King. 

Yeah, they nearly lost me there, too. But don't be fooled by the seemingly weak conceptual premise, this is a good album. It's full of the kind of angular and jagged guitar riffs that would make Bloc Party and BATS fans equally at home and you take the literal story of the twins and use it as an allegory for one's self, it makes a lot more sense - and seems a lot less, well, lame. Take your open mind, because this is worth it.

The album begins with This House Alive, which is a top track. It begins with an eerie quietness that later turns into a Coheed and Cambria-esque song that manages to combine lyrical integrity and good listening in equal measure. The album continues with a general template of discordant riffs that are an absolute pleasure to listen to, intercut with clever wordplay and references to both Biblical and Antique mythology. It put a smile on my face, as bands like these are rarely this consistent. They come across as a cross between Coheed and Cambria and BATS - but so much more consistant.

The album hits its next notable high point on the sixth track, Double Dead. Mixing a the twang on whatever the kids are calling "Indie rock" nowadays, with spiky post-hardcore influences riffs and two jarring time changes within the first minute of the track, it's a pleasure to listen to, if you're not a fan of pop-strucutred songs. Lead singer, Tim Kasher's vocals and wordplay are very much at a peak here. He manages to get across the menace of the character he embodies, with clever references to Dante and the Biblical story of Samson and Delilah. Of course, one might argue that the listener would have to be assumed a wide-reading to enjoy, but nonetheless, it's clever and deserves a mention.

As the album progresses, although the concept seemed weak at first, it becomes apparent that the idea of having an evil twin who is able to make an impression on you becomes rather disquietening. Kasher's combination of writing and vocals establishes a very clear narrative without being frivolous or taking away from the music. The eighth track, Twin Dragon/Hello Skelton is both another top quality song, and it manages to be genuinely menacing without taking on any tropes. The interwoven references to nursery rhymes with Kasher's convincingly unhinged vocals, with the disquietening guitars... it's just executed brilliently. The next track, Wowowow continues this trend whilst being a more traditional rock song.

After this, the album's story begins to take a turn in the favour of the other character, and without giving away too much, it does change the mood. But there is still a violence to the music, just under the surface.

Despite what some other publications have said in regards to it, (Metacritic places it at 62, quite a mixed reception) this is a clever album. It manages to be at once dissonant, and catchy. At once conceptual, but accessible. It has to be said that it definitely sits on the more cerebral end of post-hardcore. It's not pop music, and its not the sort of album that allows several tracks to be taken from it. It is a different beast entirely, and a very effective concept album. It warrants a good forty-five minutes of your time, and your full attention as every word is significant. It's almost a modern equivalent of program music.  I recommend it wholeheartedly, though. Cursive's sound is spectacular. Their delivery and concept is less of a sure thing, but I'd say risk it. Concept albums so often fall short, and even though the premise of this one is at first a turn-off, it makes a seemingly dry and overdone theme into a spectacular and multi-facceted work. If you've the time and thought to spare, then this is where to put it.