Cursive - I Am Gemini | Album Review | By Volume

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Cursive - I Am Gemini

Cursive

I Am Gemini

A stage play with shallow characters which pulls the rug out from underneath far too often.

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Author: on April 19, 2012
4.0
Saddle Creek / Big Scary Monsters
February 21, 2012

The concept may be impossible to follow, the stage directions all well and good, Kasher’s metaphors bizarre and full of disconnect, but there’s nothing more misleading than the three words that declare this album a concept. I Am Gemini. It’s impossible to be that forward on an album of such weird ideas, one that talks of twins separated at birth, ying and yang style, caught under house arrestin a “struggle for the soul.” What do you say to that? Exit stage left?

What poor sucker could direct this album, could declare anything of it? In designing such a mischievous title, Cursive are telling us there’s nothing to do when presented with I Am Gemini except sit back and watch. Unfortunately, you’ve just sat down to a play straight out of hell, with no meaning or purpose, like a shitty thought experiment with loads of loopholes that don’t matter. You’re going to need to do further reading. Essentially, I Am Gemini is a collection of liner notes; the album that accompanies it is optional.

I admire,  at least, Kasher’s lack of compromise in making an album of such ridiculous contradictions, in saying this stage play needs no introduction but still having so much to tell you at every turn. This album is so into the little stage-play built around it (for it? More on that later…) that it plays with all the gimmicks and none of the dialogue. It stops and starts like a pantomime, all giddy and happy to trip over itself, adoring the dramatic irony of a narrator that speaks every part yet knows fucking nothing. It’s just that such self-awareness – or should we call it lack of awareness? Is it both? I’m fucking confused – only works in Kasher’s favour when we’re falling into his trap and indulging ourselves as much as he does.

Am I Gemini?

Illustration by Chris Harrop.

The way “The Sun And Moon” pauses for afterthoughts feels like the guitar chugging is second to footnotes Kasher is inserting for himself: “no, I’m like the sun, and you’re like the moon… nah, you’re the sun, and I’m the moon.” It’s like a total Chekov’s Gemini situation there for a moment, but Kasher isn’t content on I Am Gemini unless he pulls the rug from under our feet every time we find one to walk on. I Am Gemini, then, is an album that never gets going and has nowhere grand to go. It’s a diversion in concept-album form, like the ugliest of ’70s generation prog-rock, and Christ, is it disorientating.

Of course, Kasher has written these mad little plays and stage directions before – “Butcher The Song” and “Driftwood” were little violent fairy tales that dramatised an album of angry self-service – but if anything, The Ugly Organ proved that a concept doesn’t have to get in the way of a songwriter and his songs. There were no footnotes with “A Gentlemen Caller,” no pausing for a moment of trickery, rather a moment of clarity among a song of aggressive climaxes. The Ugly Organ only had an appendix in “Staying Alive,” and so instead of stopping for an explanation, it let the story play out in real-time. It made catharsis a double-edged sword, both the horror and the sweetness recognised in its “characters” and their constitution at all times.

Note: all of these characters were actually Kasher. Right? On I Am Gemini, I’m not really sure if Kasher is writing himself in, but that thing that we all wished would come true for so long – less mid-thirties anxiety, please, Tim – is wasted when an album so impersonal is still kept so close to his chest. All these characters are Kasher, sans the experiences. And so, at risk of seeming simple, I say: I don’t get it. The talk of the liner notes for I Am Gemini places an unfair weight on an album we’re at pains to understand, but it also points to the frustrating surrealism Kasher has his heart set on for this otherwise pretty standard post-hardcore album. It’s abrupt, and like most emo-punk tinged indie, it reveals most at its most melodic.

The problem is that I Am Gemini is all exposition and no implications, no subtleties, no character interactions. I admired and was disturbed by Domestica as much as I was because Kasher played all the parts and played his own the most monstrously of all. Here, I know none of the characters until those last chants in a stand-out track we wait twelve other songs for. The song is nearly entirely an explanation to the album that it follows, concerning birth certificates of characters and that final declaration: “give yourself a name / I am Gemini.” There’s nothing disturbing about Cursive here, but then there’s nothing much at all. I don’t squirm at the abrasiveness of I Am Gemini. When the guitars clamber against the drums on “Double Dead,” I feel lost in the chaos of a story that doesn’t want to be understood. When Kasher asks for a chance to explain on “Twin Dragon”… I don’t want to know.

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