Development is the catalyst for warring among music fans, especially when it's mistaken for regression. Some are afraid of change, or cling desperately to a band's original sound with closed minds and plugged ears. I'm certain these types of fans will tar and feather Mama, I'm Swollen. However, that does not make it a bad record; just one that popular music critics will label as 'emo' and throw to the dogs, and fans will moodily swill nonsense about it's departure from previous success Happy Hollow. Cursive takes a rather pessimistic tone with this one ('Sad Hollow' if you will), but I certainly wouldn't lump them in with the angsty eyeliner crowd; this sounds to me more like a mid-life crisis for the indie rock veterans. Considering the shelf life of artists these days, once a band turns fourteen, they are allowed to be a tad bit reflective and moody. Growing up is tough for everyone.
Thus the 'emo' comparison makes sense, but only vaguely. Strictly looking at the music, some of the melodic choices seem to evoke the days of pop emo punk, when Matchbook Romance and Taking Back Sunday were in vogue. Mama, I'm Satan sounds like a post-modern Panic At The Disco, with the auto-tune turned off. However, the subject matter of the record is far from romancing (or defriending) love interests. Kasher and Cursive are entranced by their current state of conflict, so they wrote an entire album about it.
Every record I've written has left me smitten, sings front man Tim Kasher, who really sounds like he's just tired of writing songs to smile about. A common mistake is comparing work to other work in some sort of bar setting contest. However, the only way to give Mama full attention is to bracket out previous albums, and try and come at the ten songs as if they stand alone.
And they do stand, just not in the way Cursive used to spin. The songs have a strong thematic preoccupation with escape from reality, the tiredness of routines, and the inevitable pratfalls of life. The means to run include sex (From The Hips), but mostly just a desire to flee from family life and previous work I'm goin' to Pleasure Island/I don't wanna come home. While cries of Don't wanna live in the now/don't wanna know what I know can come off as childish, here Kasher is referring to years of accumulating knowledge of what life can entail; mortgages, wives and children, and accountability. Mama is his post-partem depression, the baby being almost fifteen years of making music. The gods must be laughing down at me Kasher croons on the last track, and maybe some people out there joined in with a chuckle. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that Cursive has exorcized their demons. - joe puglisi