Art Is Hard

Perhaps a backlash was inevitable. Saddle Creek Records’ Cursive has been playing bristly post-punk for more than a decade now, and for most of that time, their press has been favorable, even adoring. They’ve climbed the indie-rock ladder slower than some of their contemporaries, and, along with their Saddle Creek contemporaries, been the subject of favorable write-ups in the New York Times, and now they’re playing singles on Letterman.

Which means it’s just about time for their critical supporters to turn their backs, and sure enough, the band’s newest is receiving mostly middling reviews. I won’t claim their newest record, Mama, I’m Swollen, is as awesome as the band’s devastating triumph, Domestica — but then, what album is? Lyrically, the songs cover familiar angsty subjects (though without the conceptual wit of The Ugly Organ). Musically, the band has continued to mature, adding additional layers of orchestral flourish to their brand of jangly, bitter punk. Meanwhile, the core of the band’s sound — Tim Kasher’s haunted folk-punk warble — remains firmly at the center of every song.

The band’s doing the same thing it’s always done, essentially: churning out angst-ridden emo tailored for an adult audience — Dashboard Confessional records for people with day jobs, rent, and college degrees. That isn’t for everyone, of course — never has been — but if you’ve enjoyed Cursive in the past, I don’t see why you wouldn’t find quite a bit to like in Mama, I’m Swollen.