art by Joshua Jetson
by Tim McMahan | Lazy-i
It’s funny and sad where we’ve come in terms of generating interest in indie music. Just a decade ago, finding the best new music was something of a challenge; and if you lived in Omaha, it was practically hidden from sight. Today, everything’s at our fingertips. All you need is someone to point the way.
Unfortunately, from an indie music standpoint, that someone continues to be Pitchfork. As it’s been for a few years now, a review in Pitchfork can help make or break an indie band. For a new band, it can mean the difference between having your music heard and people coming to your shows… or being unheard and unseen. For more established bands like Cursive, Pitchfork won’t break them to a new audience as much as: 1) support a listener’s already-formed notion about their music, or 2) cast doubt on the listener’s own taste.
For Pitchfork‘s review of I Am Gemini, posted yesterday, the effect is the latter. The 4.7-rated review opens with this salvo: “Credit where due: I Am Gemini is Cursive’s weakest record by a disheartening margin…” The opening sentence of the next paragraph gives you a footing as to the reviewer’s past experience with Cursive: “…even while Cursive’s Domestica and The Ugly Organ remain some of the most purposefully narcissistic albums to ever bear the emo tag, their lyrical acts of emotional martyrdom understandably inspired an intense cult.” Yikes…
But it’s not all negative… or is it? “Conceptual tomfoolery aside, the music aligns with Kasher’s increasing tendency to sand off the edges of his prickly attitude and serrated vocals, and I Am Gemini is by far Cursive’s most playful record and almost fun at points.”
The review concludes with: “At one point on ‘Wowowow,’ Kasher sings in puns taken from Cursive titles, and this kind of meta exercise makes a sad kind of sense within the context of I Am Gemini’s impenetrability. After all, main characters like Cassius, Pollock, Young Cassius, Young Pollock, and the Narrator are all voiced by the same guy the same exact way, a more concrete way of essentially pointing out that the whole of I Am Gemini is Kasher talking to himself.”
After reading that, Cursive should be happy to have received a rating as high as a 4.7. Keep in mind that the rating will be the only thing non-fans will ever see. Only Cursive fans will read the entire review, because no one reads Pitchfork reviews anymore, they just look at the number. I take that back. People will read a Pitchfork review if the rating is as low as 2.0 or high as 8.0. Anything in the middle is ignored.
Upon hearing the review, I can imagine Tim Kasher shrugging and saying, “Hey, whattaya gonna do?” There’s nothing you can do about a bad review other than bite down and move on. Kasher knew he was taking a risk with this one; people are either going to get it or they won’t. And in fact the record has received its share of accolades. Drowned in Sound gave the album an 8 out of 10, calling it a “monumental return for Tim Kasher…” adding “This beautifully dark fairytale of a concept album is as heavy as the Cursive of old, ingenious, and just as lyrically surreal as you could hope for.”
Paste Magazine gave the album 7.8 out of 10 with the comment: “Musically, the band is at their most adventurous, albeit not their most accessible,” and recommending repeated listenings — good advice, but will anyone take it in this ADD/Spotify age?
AV Club gave it a “B,” calling it a “forceful, a demanding rock-driven opus…”
On the other hand, the Boston Phoenix gave it 2.5 stars out of 4. The reviewer, who can’t seem to get over the loss of Gretta Cohn, called the record “the most musically conventional record they’ve ever made; it also bears the burden of putting across Kasher’s most preposterous story ever.”
But in the end, it’s the Pitchfork review that carries the most weight if only for the fact that a high Pitchfork rating could have been enough to get a non-fan to check out the record on Spotify or whatever subscription streaming service they use. Not that it matters, because despite the fact that the record dropped today, I Am Gemini is not available in its entirety on Spotify, and may not be for a while…
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I almost forgot to mention: Tonight at the Shop at Saddle Creek it’s the second meeting of the Record Club @ Shop. Tonight’s record to be played in its entirety: Neutral Milk Hotel’s classic In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. It all starts at 7 and will be followed by a short discussion afterward. For more info, go here.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.