Cursive are no strangers to the concept album. Veterans of Conor Oberst’s Saddle Creek Records, the post-hardcore/indie rockers from Omaha, Nebraska, struck it big with 2000’s Domestica, 2003’s masterpiece The Ugly Organ, and 2006’s Happy Hollow – all of which were concept albums. Following a lack-luster release in 2009’s Mama, I’m Swollen, Cursive return to their conceptual formula with I Am Gemini.
I Am Gemini tells the tale of two twins – one good, one bad – that were separated at birth and are meeting for the first time. The album gets off to a great start with “This House Alive” which is both melodic and soft at first, but gradually builds as lead vocalist Tim Kasher introduces the good twin to the evil one. He belts out “There are voices in the dead of night / As I am screaming ‘I am Gemini.’” Kasher has always been known to be very personal, very tongue-in-cheek when it comes to lyrics, but in a very keen way Kasher is able to relay the same passion and cleverness through the perspective of the two twins.
The album features a consistent array of catchy riffs and snappy drumbeats, but each track features a different nuance that serves as a memorable moment in the grand scheme of I Am Gemini. Take “Warmer Warmer” for example: an upbeat, palm-muted toe-tapper that evolves eerily into Kasher whispering “Warmer warmer, cried the farmer’s wife / Warmer, warmer, with a carving knife” before kicking into a finale very reminiscent to the days of The Ugly Organ. Another example would be the keyboards to “Gemini” and the memorable line “Somebody’s building a monster it seems and the parts look a lot like mine.” One of the more addictive tracks, “The Cat and Mouse,” highlights Kasher’s impressive lyricism and the band’s overall musicianship, building up to a fast and gritty outro that features the lyrics “Kill the demon, kill your doppelganger.” The final track, “Eulogy for No Name,” features a low-pitched Kasher singing “Soon as you were born, you were aborted, cast away / Child of moral doctrine and rape, Lord knows the monsters that marriage makes” and serves as the perfect ending to this novelesque album.
Although there are numerous moments that impress on I Am Gemini, the album fails to leave the lasting impression of previous concept albums. The album has a consistent flow, but many tracks simply cannot hold their own when taken out of the greater context of the album, thus making it tough to fully enjoy the brilliance of the band’s songwriting on this effort. Although I Am Gemini is an album better served for listening from start to finish and rewards those with the attentiveness to do so, credit must be given to the ability to tell a story – and a captivating one at that.
3 out of 5