Cursive - Mama, I'm Swollen (Cover Artwork)


Cursive: Mama, I'm SwollenMama, I'm Swollen (2009)
Saddle Creek Records

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:

Contributed by: GlassPipeMurderGlassPipeMurder
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For ten years, Cursive has been faced with the impossible task of simultaneously pleasing two distinct but similarly stubborn and equally elitist subsets of music fandom. Hipsters want Cursive to be their favorite indie rock band and punks want Cursive to be their favorite post-hardcore band. A brie.
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For ten years, Cursive has been faced with the impossible task of simultaneously pleasing two distinct but similarly stubborn and equally elitist subsets of music fandom. Hipsters want Cursive to be their favorite indie rock band and punks want Cursive to be their favorite post-hardcore band. A brief glance at the revision history of the band's Wikipedia entry showcases the futile struggle for genre primacy and, incidentally, the absurdity of it all. But with Mama, I'm Swollen, Cursive rises to the challenge and delivers a graceful tightrope rock of equal parts mellow indie and punk angst.

Following on the heels of the genre-bending, circus-folk of 2006's Happy Hollow, Mama, I'm Swollen is both a return to form and refinement of an ostensibly Cursive sound if ever one was able to be pinned down. The manifestly conceptual Happy Hollow has given way to a more free-form flow of storytelling, blurring the lines between the narrative and the annotations, merging the minutia and momentous. Less judgmental and more observant than what precedes it, Mama, I'm Swollen is a collection of blurry snapshots, held under the magnifying glass to reveal the detail in all that is there.

Foreshadowing the flirtations with atmospheric post-rock that follow, "In the Now" explodes from a controlled buildup of feedback into a shockingly simplistic set of three couplets and driven by a steady trot of rollicking punk vigor. The immediate downturn "From the Hips" provides a momentary breather before bursting in similar fashion, though pushing just a shade of commentary: "From our hips we don't give a shit /? / It's the only way to feel alive / The closest thing to being born again." "I Couldn't Love You" feels almost like a throwback to the still-developing post-hardcore Cursive, save for the oscillating flute melody in the foreground that wobbles in and out like Embrace playing "Strawberry Fields Forever."

The curious inclusion of "Caveman" offers the only substantial evidence of detractors in an otherwise sterling assembly. The rough-and-tumble alt-country romp seems more like a displaced Happy Hollow outtake than a fitting piece of the album's storyboard. Conciliated by the lively but dense "Mama, I'm Satan," the final five songs of the record stretch nearly 25 minutes, book-ended by the six-minute voyage "What Have I Done?" The lush, ambient soundscape glows intensely as vocalist Tim Kasher muses about his perceived shortcomings, virtually cross-referencing Happy Hollow's "Rise Up! Rise Up!" with "" spent the best years of my life / Waiting on the best years of my life."

Enveloped in a muddle of simplistic complexity, Mama, I'm Swollen seems like Cursive's most archetypal offering. It grows, it matures, it falters, it ends with less certainty than it began. But most importantly, it delivers.


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
theproblemwithfire (April 23, 2009)

Been listening to this a lot. Pretty solid follow up to Happy Hollow, which I really enjoyed also. Got it for a dollar on the day it was released. Good stuff.

aaronsuspect (March 16, 2009)

After reading through the lyrics in the packaging I have so much more respect for this album. Amazing lyricist and and songwriter. It's incredible that they've put together such an entirely cohesive album. I know all their albums are "conceptual" but still, it just gets me.

deadxlast (March 13, 2009)

I've had this for a couple weeks but I still can't tell if I like it. I keep just going back to listen to The Ugly Organ when I try to listen to it. The album art is really cool though.

televisioneyes (March 12, 2009)

not into it...

TheMike (March 12, 2009)

I HATED most of Happy Hollow for the first month. I think the whole album is gold, now.

And I have just bumped my rating of Mama, I'm Swollen up a bit. Although it seemed ridiculously short at first, it feels more and more complete as I listen to it over again. It reveals a lot with subsequent plays, as every Cursive album does. I am really amazing by how much I like this. I could end up bumping this up to a perfect rating yet.

ELTON (March 12, 2009)

if a 90 percentile were accurate i am definitely amongst the 10 percent. i would easily bury Happy Hollow at the bottom of the pile. though it had some good songs it had some real weak ones.., ruiners really.

im liking this album better. i still miss the hard-punching Cursive but i like this loungey-subtlety over the pop-attempts.

KorbenDallas (March 12, 2009)

Upon two listens, the only song that really jumped out at me was I Couldn't Love You. Then I realized it sounds alot like my favorite Good Life song, I Am An Island.

But i must concur, the rest is somewhat boring.

And Domestica is waaaaaaay better than any other album, I can listen to that album everyday and never get tired of it.

TheMike (March 12, 2009)

I can understand that.

RRK (March 12, 2009)

TheMike: You are right that much of the album is told through characters. There are some songs on it that I like, but stuff like Big Bang just kills it for me.

inagreendase: I know that my opinion is in the minority. I also like At the Drive-In's Acrobatic Tenement better than In Casino Out and Relationship of Command (but not Vaya). Both albums are brilliantly understated in their composition, but all of the songs have a uniformity that makes two remarkably succinct albums.

billnye (March 12, 2009)

nah early summer is definitely a lot better than the last couple records.

inagreendase (March 11, 2009)

It's their second album. Y'know, the one that is free of filler and pretensions.

I'm expressing wonder at the thought that any Cursive fan could rank that album on the top of the pile. I'm pretty sure 90% of us would take any of their last four albums over Semantics.

TheMike (March 11, 2009)

Yeah, this is pretty damn good.

klashedki (March 11, 2009)

They sound an awful lot like Eastern Youth on this record whom I believed they toured with. This is as close as an american band has come to translating this type of sound properly.


TheMike (March 11, 2009)

Sorry RRK, I guess I see what you're saying. it didn't really strike me as pretentious personally, as I believe Kasher was once religious, and thought of Happy Hollow as his coming to terms with his new reality, etc. Whatever preaching he did do was always offset by Rise Up! Rise Up! for me anyway. "I'm not saying who's right... there's more than one way to explain our existence". The rest seemed to be said through the minds of various characters.

Give this album a chance, though.

rraffin (March 11, 2009)

Lot of filler here, but "What Have I Done?" is pretty great.

RRK (March 10, 2009)

Sorry, but I don't find that writing the unofficial soundtrack for Religulous is a great artistic achievement and I don't think that complaining about organized religion qualifies as ambitious. I find the message of Happy Hollow to be gratuitous and grating. Kasher explicitly complains about biggots, but I don't think he showed much understanding or compassion for the people he skewered over the course of the album.

I know the difference between ambition and pretense, and i know when they are the same thing. Tim Kasher probably thought he was writing another Ugly Organ, but he lost sight of what could have been a positive concept album to a petty, bickering argument directed at the likes of the 700 Club. I call Happy Hollow pretentious because I think that a great deal of the motivation behind the album stemmed from the false sense of superiority Kasher would gain through attacking religious beliefs and concepts.

TheMike (March 10, 2009)

How long will it take for people to realize the difference between pretense and ambition?

RRK (March 10, 2009)


It's their second album. Y'know, the one that is free of filler and pretensions.

drugmoney (March 10, 2009)

i like how their guitars are so unoriginal. albums pretty good, i like it. sacarificed a mountain dew but it was worth it to buy this album

GlassPipeMurder (March 10, 2009)

Rise Up! Rise Up! has juuuust about nothing to do with What Have I Done?

"What Have I Done?": "Spent the best years of my life waiting for the best years of my life"

"Rise Up! Rise Up!": "I wasted half of my life on the thought that I??d live forever

not exactly the same, but similar remorse for wasted life.

inagreendase (March 10, 2009)

Score is for The Storms of Early Summer: Semantics of Song, their best album.


StormShadow (March 10, 2009)

Haven't heard this one yet, but I'm with those saying "Happy Hollow" was outstanding. Then again, I'm an atheist, and I loved the album's anti-religious stance. Loved the music, though, too.

Torgo (March 10, 2009)

I think the cover is pretty great and I'm usually not into red and black.

mikexdude (March 10, 2009)

I dig it. It's not as incredible as I was hoping; definitely right about losing me towards the end.

teaessare (March 10, 2009)

Agree totally with the popness and the second half kinda getting boring and it being Cursive.

thegreatestmanalive (March 10, 2009)

i never understood the dislike for happy hollow on this site, that album blows my mind... and other things. Also this record fucking rocks, i didn't like it at first but now i can't get enough

TheMike (March 10, 2009)

Happy Hollow is, to this day, one of my all time favourite albums. Haven't heard this yet, but that will change in a couple days.

Blackjaw_x (March 10, 2009)

I was very disappointed in this... two or three great tracks and what seems like tons of filler. What a waste of three years... six, if you think about it (we have to wait 3 more years to give them another chance).

radtothemax (March 10, 2009)

I spent a dollar on this album. I would have spent twice as much, its that good.

RRK (March 10, 2009)

I bought this for one dollar, but I haven't listened to it yet. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from Happy Hollow, which was an abomination. Score is for The Storms of Early Summer: Semantics of Song, their best album.

steveman (March 10, 2009)

I'm definitely impressed with this album so far. I'm never sure what to expect from a new Kasher release, but the last two Cursive albums haven't taken much time to grown on me.

mattp330 (March 10, 2009)

im just not sure how i feel about it yet. but cheers to saddle creek, i got this album in the mail on thursday

FrankReich (March 10, 2009)

No sir, I don't like it.

Bored me to tears. Which is a shame because I love the rest of their stuff.

Archangel (March 10, 2009)

Rise Up! Rise Up! has juuuust about nothing to do with What Have I Done?

I do agree with you about Caveman, though -- easily my least favorite song on the album.

But it's Cursive, my second favorite band, so I will defend this all year long if I need to.

inagreendase (March 10, 2009)

With how straightforward the lyrics are sometimes, this is almost like their pop record. Not at all a bad thing, though.

Second half loses me a little, but, it's Cursive.

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