Cursive is no stranger to the idea of the concept album. They started working with them on 2001’s Domestica, continued with 2003’s masterwork The Ugly Organ, and most recently on 2006’s Happy Hollow. Lead singer and songwriter Tim Kasher has returned to the conceptual well and crafted the band’s seventh studio album, I Am Gemini – a dark tale of twins (one good, one bad) separated at birth and now meeting for the first time. As the story suggests, it’s their most ambitious album to date.
Lyrically, Kasher has moved away from the more personal, introspective focus of earlier albums, to one that’s deeper and more involved. Kasher has said writing about the twins was a way for him to be incredibly personal without purging his conscience on paper. He has allowed himself to invest the same amount of emotion as in previous, and far more intimate, works, while at the same time creating a clever convention and interesting story in the twins, which removes him from the spotlight. Kasher uses this twist to both satiate the fans that love his deeply personal poetic lyrics and also calm the critics who may have grown tired of his over-emotional, self-referential musings… at the same time.
That’s just the lyrics. The music on Gemini is Cursive at their strongest, as well. A story of schizophrenia is a perfect fit for the band’s dueling guitar attacks and turn-on-a-dime rhythm changes. The addition of drummer Cully Symington to the long-time trio of Kasher, Matt Maginn (bass), and Ted Stevens (guitar) is a smart one. It’s apparent that every member took great care and time, not only on their own, but also as a group, to create just the right atmosphere and pulse for the story.
And that pulse is a steady and fast one throughout. Unlike previous Cursive albums, there are very few slow points here. Gemini builds slow with “This House Alive”, but it only lasts for a couple minutes before the guitars come crashing in and Kasher’s trademark scream blasts out. The rest of the songs are quick and pure guitar rock.
Kasher does a wonderful job avoiding the danger of using different voices for each character in his twisted story. It could very easily have become a concept album nightmare in songs like the grossly infectious “The Sun and Moon”, where both twins are speaking, or in the vicious “Wowowow”, where up to four characters are summoned.
Overall, Cursive has put a tremendous amount of work into the idea and music for Kasher’s somewhat twisted story, and it shows. I Am Gemini isn’t only a rewarding effort, but a solid example of how to make a concept work. Repeated listens will prove worthy of mining new discoveries, of finding something more, and that’s something the band has worked towards for 17 years. Consider this their peak.
Essential Tracks: “The Sun and Moon”, “Gemini”, “Wowowow”
Feature artwork by Drew Litowitz.