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[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Cursive
The Difference Between Houses and Homes
Saddle Creek Records

Rating: 5.5/10 ?


August 11, 2005
Cursive's albums have acted as conduits for epiphany for a number of listeners who grew up with them. Such Blinding Stars for Starving Eyes and The Storms of Early Summer: Semantics of Song hinted at a world beyond Green Day and the Smashing Pumpkins awaiting those seeking to plunge beneath pop music's surface. They made the transition easier by incorporating the angst and distortion into their dynamic, personal post-hardcore.

After this baptism by emo, Domestica foregrounded narrative perspective and introduced kids with learners' licenses to the concept album. Alternative rock songs could tell stories - "I" wasn't always the person singing the songs - and albums could be held together by a thematic thread, learned the all ages shows crowd. The Ugly Organ took Tim Kasher's literary ambitions a step further with its constant metacommentary, serving as what was likely one of their young listeners' first encounters with the technique; it also took the time to prove that cellos and organs could be just as dissonant and rocking as the guitars and drums that dominated the band's prior full-lengths.

Taking a step backwards with Cursive, then, has the potential for both fond memories and excessive awkwardness, just like thumbing through a junior high yearbook or running into an old prom date. It's a return to a more innocent time, but it's also a reminder of how big of a goof you used to be.

The Difference Between Houses and Homes narrows its focus down to a specific time frame (1995-2001) and devotes the vast majority of its attention (all but one song, actually) to Cursive's pre-Ted Stevens incarnation. It hones in on the band's gangly, sometimes painful, growing years. At this point, Cursive's deepening voice still cracked at the most inopportune times; they still operated under the fear that mom would walk in and catch them beating off, if you will. This is Cursive's puberty as told through hard-to-find 7-inches and a pair of unreleased demos, and sadly, it mostly points to their early naiveté.

While a few of Cursive's formative songs are great Nirvana/Sunny Day mash-ups, there's nothing comparable to "Bastille Day" here; instead, we're presented with a band trying to get by on soft/loud dynamics and affected screaming alone. Their increases in volume don't signify increases in intensity, however: when they rock, they fail to scrape the underbelly of existence like they do on Domestica. The softer, twinkling passages, meanwhile, traipse about aimlessly; it seems as if their sole function is to provide a contrast for the cathartic choruses and climaxes.

A handful of these recordings show promise, and should prove enjoyable for diehards and newcomers alike. Previously unreleased song "Dispenser" is the oldest track on the comp, and it's a glorious anomaly, capturing Kasher and his bandmates doing their best Archers of Loaf impersonation. It's raw and full of high flying melody, surpassing the nebulous material surrounding it in both vigor and compositional mettle. "Nostalgia," taken from the Small Brown Bike split, is one of the earliest Cursive songs to feature cellist Gretta Cohn, and though its incorporation of the cello isn't as deft as on the Burst and Bloom EP, it does demonstrate a stronger sense of melody than the rest of these B-sides, and shows the band exercising some much needed restraint.

These standouts sadly don't compensate for the rest of the album's general blandness. It's a shame to see any music go out-of-print, but it's difficult to see how most of these songs would have been missed at all. Without the novelty and magic of being new discoveries and current documents, the best they can do is make us thankful for just how much both we, and Cursive, have grown.

Reviewed by Phillip Buchan
A one-time music director at WUOG in Athens, Phillip is into college radio, literature, writing, buying records, going to shows, talking to friends, learning -- pretty much the same stuff that all of us priveledged, (pseudo?)intellectual Americans are into.

See other reviews by Phillip Buchan

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