Cursive - I Am Gemini (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


I Am Gemini (2012)

Saddle Creek

It should come as no surprise that the latest Cursive release, I Am Gemini, is a concept album. That's pretty much the indie rock band's M.O. What is surprising, though, is just how deep that concept runs. Compared to Cursive's last record, Mama, I'm Swollen, everything feels more, and better, thought out. In hindsight, Mama feels like a dry run for Gemini. It brought back the aggressive, guitar-based assault Cursive left behind on the horn-driven Happy Hollow, just as Gemini does. As a concept, though, Mama felt thin; it's basically a bunch of songs about frontman Tim Kasher's dick (look at the title!).

I Am Gemini, by comparison, comes bundled with a playbill, outlining a two-act musical about battling twin brothers, separated at birth, who represent the duality of man. It is unquestionably a rock opera. It tells the story of Cassius and Pollock and their many troubles. It has a beginning, middle and end. Actually, once I read the stage directions, I was surprised how well the songs fold into Kasher's story, especially since it's fairly easy to separate them from their high concept. Aside from Kasher's insistence on returning to the twins theme (take a shot every time he says "Gemini") and maybe the lucid "Lullaby for No Name," an instrumental meant to convey Cassius passing out that kills the flow a little, one could easily play through the whole record without worrying too much about the story. It helps, but it isn't completely necessary to appreciate I Am Gemini.

After all, Kasher and co. do a good job balancing tunefulness and story. The songs never get too ranty or beholden to exposition. Rather, they cover some pretty relatable territory: morality, boozing, getting older. Closing number "Eulogy for No Name" is a solid twist in the story, but it's also a great tune about shitty upbringings. Kasher can get a little wordy at times on the verses, but he still hits a strong chorus with "They gave you no name."

In fact, for all the rock opera pretensions, I Am Gemini offers a surprising amount of "hits." "The Sun and Moon" might be one of Cursive's poppiest songs to date. "Drunken Birds" is a great drinking song. "Twin Dragon/Hello Skeleton" packs a mighty fine angular guitar riff that's so, so danceable. While the record falls off a little three-quarters of the way through, it finishes strong with "A Birthday Bash" and "Eulogy for No Name." It's easy to laugh off rock operas as self-indulgent, but Cursive lends the genre credence with I Am Gemini.