I can’t seem to recall an album that I went from detesting so much to actually enjoying. Upon the first few listens, I found I Am Gemini to be disappointing and safe. The press for the album said that it was one of Cursive’s heaviest albums, which I didn’t necessarily get, especially compared to their first three albums. But in comparison to their previous two albums (Mama, I’m Swollen and Happy Hollow) I suppose that’s a safe assessment. The album doesn’t seem to rely upon much of anything beyond the standard rock lineup of bass, guitar, drums, and vocals. Gone are the excessive horns and keyboards from previous albums. The one thing the album hinges on, however, is the lyrical concept. Here is how their bio describes it: “I Am Gemini is the surreal and powerful musical tale of Cassius and Pollock, twin brothers separated at birth. One good and one evil, their unexpected reunion in a house that is not a home ignites a classic struggle for the soul, played out with a cast of supporting characters that includes a chorus of angels and devils, and twin sisters conjoined at the head.” Sure, whatever. Composed in a linear fashion, the whole thing is written like a play. It seems a bit pretentious and, unfortunately, not as interesting as it might be. I’ve been listening to Cursive for fifteen years, since the beginning of their career (or pretty damn close to it). Unlike most fans, I’m most partial to their earliest albums with their contrast of stops and starts and loud and soft dynamics. Personally, I prefer lyrics of existential dilemmas and the search for meaning. Concept albums are all good and well, but they don’t mean the same to me as something that comes from the individual’s experiences and the ability to work through that shit. Perhaps there’s something to be said for taking a notion or experience and creating something much larger. In the end, this is an interesting story, but not one that really moves me—like other songwriters have with their more personal songs—and like Cursive did on their earlier work. But all that being said, musically, this album still rocks. Regardless of any concept, it’s got some good songs with well-articulated lyrics that don’t require a lyric sheet to decipher, just to understand what character is speaking. While upon first listen the album seemed safe, it’s still better than most of the music in the indie rock scene, with competency and creativity as well as great hooks and catchy tunes. And that will keep me playing it quite a bit.
–kurt (Saddle Creek, saddle-creek.com)