After having been on hiatus more times than Coldplay, Cursive is back with their album I Am Gemini, a follow up to the band’s sixth album Mama, I’m Swollen. And since I’m not one to beat around the bush, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. First gaining traction in the late 1990s, the Omaha natives are known for their post-hardcore, indie rock works. Diverting their attentions to side projects and dropping band members along the way, Cursive has had many ups and downs, both internally and externally. But one thing that has been unwavering is their style, which still has all the hallmarks of Generation Y presented in their earlier music and their records today.
Like any reviewer, I do research before putting in my two-cents. So when I went on my usual fact-finding mission, I stumbled onto something I didn’t quite expect. Low and behold, I Am Gemini has a two Act, operetta-like play to accompany the album. With an instant flashback to the dramatic work that is R. Kelly’s “hip-hopera” Trapped in the Closet, I waded through the playbill on the band’s website.
In a nutshell, the Tommy-esque play, in its application of rock melodies, centers on twin brothers, Cassius and Pollock. Yes, the two are named after the twins of Greek mythology – kudos to the SFSeror Classics major that remembered. However, here Cassius, the reformed criminal, inherits a house from his recently deceased biological parents. As Cassius moves throughout the rooms of the decrepit house, he is unknowingly watched by his twin, Pollock, and the pair’s interactions occur in the presence of none other than angels, demons and the specter of Cassius’s childhood self.
Each song narrates the play’s plot, a plot that in my opinion reaches out of the band’s creative depth. But ditching the playbill, the music alone could be a decent alternative intro, especially for those weary of the genre. The 90’s band stays true to their roots, using fun, syncopated rhythms with “angsty” yet catchy hooks. The most popular track off of the recently released album is “The Sun and the Moon,” which is reminiscent of R.E.M. if they were to have a lovechild with the B-52’s.
Do keep in mind though that I am Gemini is a continuous rock-operetta. So without context, attempting to incorporate I Am Gemini into an afternoon iPod shuffle power-hour doesn’t work. The piece would come off as a disjointed release. Also, because the songs are restricted to the playbill, it is simple to spot where Cursive was strained in trying to make it work, leaving both sides of the creative project wanting. As a recommendation, only a few songs are indeed purchase-worthy, and I mean few. There is a reason why concept records are difficult, and this lackluster release reminds us yet again why this adage is true.