After a good handful of releases and one breakup, Cursive is given the singles collection treatment by flagship label Saddle Creek in the form of The Difference Between Houses And Homes (Lost Songs And Loose Ends 1995-2001), and results are quite mixed.
With this type of release, the biggest obstacle in listening is usually the cohesion, and here, it's no exception. Cursive definitely show some different strides of themselves throughout the compilation, but mostly early on. Opener "Dispenser," an unreleased track from 1995, resembles that of similar-era At The Drive-In (I'm thinking Hell Paso / Alfaro Vive, Carajo!, here). It's an inherently sardonic-sounding but upbeat track with Steven Pederson sounding brattier than ever with his backup additions in the breakdown, and the moods here are far sunnier than later material would rely on. We cut to three years later on the next song, "Pivotal," taken from the Icebreaker 7", and immediately we hear the same guitar tone as used on the introduction of Domestica's "The Martyr," with the band relying on their trademark inclinations, that being vaguely cynical with the subdued angularity musically. Its follower, Zero Hour's "Sucker & Dry," sounds comparitively chastened with Tim Kasher gravelly bouncing over the low-key collaboration, save for the chorus where there's a bit of upswing in his voice. "Icebreakers" is the quietest offering yet, occasional guitar picking with the expected pickup in the chorus and off-key, throaty yelling from Kasher. And that's just the first-third of the disc.
However, the last few tracks of the aforementioned section set the blueprint for the rest of the compilation. It's certainly a bonafide guarantee for Cursive to strangle the line between energy and lethargy, and they've certainly been successful with this practice on releases like Domestica and Burst And Bloom, but far too often on Houses And Homes they're tightening their grip on the latter and the compositions hurt thusly, offering little in terms of interesting moments. Mid-album placeholders "And The Bit Just Chokes Them" and "There's A Coldest Day In The Year" are some prime examples of this, with acutely dragging tempos and Kasher never really extending beyond one singing note. "A Disruption In The Normal Swing Of Things" couldn't be titled more appropriately, though; a bouncy, still raw chorus actually helps exhibit the pensiveness in the track, with Kasher singing so unusually fast for the album it sounds like he's stumbling over his lines, but it's a standout for sure, as is the singluar post-1998 offering of Houses And Homes, 2001's "Nostalgia," with its transition towards the end of ragged riffing and muffled, chanted "heys" lying under. "A Disruption In Our Lines Of Influence" has some Oriental-sounding chords throughout, notably in the beginning, and it's one of the better songs served up as well.
What's really been astonishing about Cursive's last few releases has been the artlessly strong, thematic nature of the albums in themselves. So while it's expected for a singles collection such as Houses And Homes to be completely void of that, it's still hard to get past the severe disconnection of the track listing with a majority of songs that seem to follow the near same exact format regardless. There's certainly a few interesting tunes offered up on the roughly produced Houses And Homes, but it's diamonds in the rough at best.
Sucker & Dry