The Red Alert
The Red Alert


The Difference Between Houses and Homes

(Saddle Creek)

Record Review by Adam McKibbin


It’s been a bittersweet month for members of the Cursive Army, who were gifted with this tidy collection of the band’s 7-inch singles, but then given the news that cellist Gretta Cohn was amicably leaving the band – and would not be replaced. Cohn was present—and at least partially responsible—for Cursive’s recent salad days, so it will be interesting to see how much her absence impacts future records.


Obviously, though, the focal point of Cursive is singer/guitarist Tim Kasher, and he, as usual, lays his strengths and weaknesses on the line unabashedly in this compilation. The years in the title are completely misleading, as only one song—2001’s “Nostalgia” (the one song that does feature Cohn)—comes from later than 1998. This is a portrait of the artist as a young, angsty man. The results are mixed, which is practically a given when dealing with retrospectives of this nature (not to mention the fact that even Cursive’s most recent and celebrated albums haven’t been without misfires).


A fair portion of the album sinks into anonymous emo drudgery, with Kasher sing-ranting over plodding guitar lines. The extremely good news, though, is that the track listing gives repeated evidence that the band is becoming better with age, as the 1996 cuts almost all lag behind the ones from 1998 (an exception being the derivative but easily enjoyable emo-punk screed “Dispenser” that leads off the album). Kasher comes unhinged to best and fullest effect on the pounding “Pivotal,” taken from ‘98’s The Icebreaker 7-inch.


Some whiners have been carping about the timing of this release, disingenuously saying that Kasher & Co. are merely out for a quick buck, or ludicrously weighing the album’s merits against The Ugly Organ or Domestica. Actually, the timing seems to be about right—perhaps, in part, unintentionally. The band is at a pivotal transitional point, having lost the member that, other than Kasher (and, arguably, sometimes more than Kasher), was most responsible for the development of a “Cursive aesthetic.” They’ve earned a sizable following—many of whom came in fresh with The Ugly Organ—and it makes sense to offer a single-serving package of what came before, warts and all. To their credit, Cursive named the collection appropriately; these songs often feel lost, or left with ends untied. Now that it’s all been put together, we can all move on.



Cursive - Happy Hollow


More by this writer:

Scout Niblett - Kidnapped by Neptune

Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

Silver Jews - Interview