God punishes good musicians.
Case in point: Cursive frontman Tim Kasher recently suffered a collapsed lung, forcing the band to cancel the rest of their US tour with the band they share this CD with, Eastern Youth.
It's pretty obvious that God's afraid that people will hear the gospel of Tim and convert to Cursive-ism. I'm already on my way, and this split CD just about pushes me over the edge.
Cursive brings to the table the best four songs the band has ever composed. While cellist Gretta has been a member of the band since the group's "Burst And Bloom" EP, this recording came out completely different with her. The main difference is that with the last EP, she recorded her parts after the songs were completed, as a sort of afterthought. Here, she is just as intregral part of the band as any other instrument. In "May Flowers," she lets her cello flow in the background of Tim's twisted guitar solo, making you feel like you're trapped in some kind of sick indie rock haunted house.
The other three tracks by Cursive are just as top notch: "Excerpts..." features some of the best lyrics Tim has ever written, a two-sided story about the breakup of a couple. It's intense lyrically and musically. The track kicks off with Gretta again shredding the cello, followed by the rest of the band launching into a complete cachophony of sound. Everything sounds out of place, but at the same time it sounds dead on. Cursive has this knack for making each song rub you the wrong way just enough so you'll pay attention. The flying guitar riffs, the time changes provided without haste by bassist/drummer duo Matt and Clint, the best worst voice in rock supplied by Tim - this band is unstoppable.
So Eastern Youth has the very unenviable task of following Cursive's output on this disc. Surprisingly, it makes the album even better. Eastern Youth is from Japan, and sings in all Japanese. Even the lyrics are printed in Japanese, which is frustrating because I *really* want to know what the lead singer is saying. Musically, it sounds very... I feel bad saying "Japanese" as that sounds stupid and possibly racist, but the guitar lines are very stereotypically Japanese. Picture the music you might hear played on the Japanese koto [sort of the Japanese version of the harpsichord] but imagine it amplified, with a lot of uptempo bass and drums backing it.
The band writes pop songs, and they're quite long - 1 clocks in at 4 minutes, 2 at 5, and one at almost 6. Do you even notice? Nope. Eastern Youth does a fantastic job of sounding fresh with their melodies, which is really hard to do considering it's being sung in Japanese, which the average American indie rocker listening to this will have no idea what it means.
So, in summary:
Cursive proves once again why they're one of the best bands on the planet. Even God was threatened by these 4 blasts of angular, distorted rock.
Eastern Youth shows that an unknown band from a foreign land can actually make an impression with a split release [unlike, say, the Ataris/Useless ID split CD, Jimmy Eat World/Jebediah split CD, the No Knife/Sunshine split 7", or probably a million more I can't think of right now]. I wish Tim Kasher the fastest recovery possible, and I still plan on seeing Eastern Youth later this month to see if they'll rock me as hard live as they rock me recorded. You need to own this. It is the best split CD this year, a true document of independent music at a crossroads.
Cursive - Excerpts From Various Notes Strewn Around The Bedroom Of April Connolly Feb 24, 1997
Eastern Youth - Muyohnosuke