Cursive – Mama, I’m Swollen (2009)


First of all, kudos to me for reviewing an album that actually came out this year (in the last two months, even). See, I’m not that out of touch, after all.

So I really love this album. It’s dark and disaffected without being depressing. Like pretty much all Cursive’s other stuff, Mama, I’m Swollen is a concept album – the theme, hell. It’s really theatrical inĀ  a way way way off broadway way, and I don’t know if it’s theatrical because it’s a concept album or if they do concept albums because they’re theatrical. It doesn’t matter. Mama, I’m Swollen employs horns for a number of songs, in a completely subtle and acceptable way (take notice, ska), as well as cellos, flutes, and even what sounds like a child’s toy piano. The overall effect is a lush, but somewhat scary sound. Love it.

The album single is From the Hips and I can see why it’s a single, but as is usually the case it’s pretty much my least favorite tune on the cd – too obvious, maybe. I really love track 3, I Couldn’t Love You – it’s probably the happiest sounding song they’ve ever recorded and it sounds really sweet even if it’s not the intended meaning. I can’t help but belt out the “I couldn’t love you anymore” lyrics when I’m listening alone in the car. Donkeys returns to the pinocchio* theme first visited by Driftwood on The Ugly Organ, but is less sad. Dark, still, but less sad. And very clever lyrics. We’re going to hell is the best song on the album and maybe the best of ’09 (so far, at least). Using the aforementioned toy piano and a toe-tappable tempo with sickly sweet vocals singing sinister lyrics, Cursive achieves a really sexy sound. This is one of very few songs that I like to listen to twice – or more – in a row. Mama, I’m Satan is intense – especially the chanty lyrics at the end. The title track is good, but not amazing. And the closing song, What Have I Done? is reflective, sad, and the perfect cool-down for the album.

The whole album is worth a listen, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be listened to all the way through. It’s not exactly what I’d consider a springtime album – probably would have been better to drop in winter – but regardless I can’t take it out of my cd-player. It’s great for solitary deep-thought listening – a quiet time album.

*Correction – When originally posted, this blog entry incorrectly referred to the theme of Donkeys as a peter pan one, when it fact it is a pinocchio one. I regret the error.

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