Cursive - Mama, I’m Swollen

2017 April 17
by John
Swollen goods: Cursive return from a three year absence.

Swollen goods: Cursive return from a three year absence.

I’m a relative latecomer to the Cursive party - or at least, I wasn’t aware I was even at the Cursive party until I was informed that The Good Life (a band I’ve enjoyed since the release of 2007’s Help Wanted Nights) and Cursive share a frontman. I heard 2003’s The Ugly Organ and it was better than good - to put none too fine a point on it, it was fucking batshit. And that’s the story of how I came to accept Cursive into my life.

I couldn’t put my finger on what I liked about them - while that slightly-punky American alt sound-type thing is usually enough to seal the deal for me, they seemed to do it better than the majority, and in a way - wild-eyed and schizophrenic - that was difficult to compare to others. There was hints of the Hold Steady, Les Savy Fav, Mew, The Bronx, The Shins, Jarcrew (even though I doubt they exerted much of an influence) but - much like Jarcrew - didn’t sound enough like anybody to allow direct comparison. Which ultimately works wonders for a band, because as a result, they are harder to dismiss as a derivative - they just are. Cursive are just Cursive. And they have recently released their new album Mama I’m Swollen in the US (it comes out in the UK on June 1st). So how does it stack up?

Mama, I’m Swollen is big. Swollen, if you will. The Ugly Organ was my favourite of their albums - it was ludicrous, in the best sense of the word. This may come to replace it, as - like every album I come to harp on and and on about until everyone’s sick of hearing it - it reveals new territory on repeat listens. It is a big, energetic record - and even when the tempo drops, it retains a confident swagger (I Couldn’t Love You sounds like a the music a punk band would write for a penny-slot machine on Brighton pleasure beach). I think that might be what I like best about Cursive - the scale. They don’t do anything by half measures, and this is no exception. I love it.

Is it their best yet? Well, who knows. The proper critics seem to like it. I’ve not had it long enough to say whether I rate it above their last three records (which I rate very highly indeed), but it is no disappointment. It is definitely on par with their existing body of work, which is of a very high standard, and that’s rare enough anyway - I’m hard pressed to think of another band that manages to hold my interest across more than a couple of albums without going sour, railroading themselves by drastically changing genres or breaking up. Bands usually begin to show wear and tear after the “breakthrough” record, but Cursive haven’t.

It took me far too long to pay attention to Cursive as it is, and I’d hate for you to make the same mistake. Use this album as an excuse to make good with Cursive, and try bringing them into your warm, cozy home just one time - I feel absolutely confident in recommending Mama, I’m Swollen as a starting point for the eager beginner. Where you go from there doesn’t really matter - because it’s all great.

John Tucker

Cursive are playing Academy 3 on May 18th. Go and see them.
Mama, I’m Swollen is available on June 1st through Saddle Creek Records.