Cursive and P.O.S. at Turner Hall
Pleasure and pain from two very different indie acts
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It was wholly appropriate that Cursive began its set on Thursday at Turner Hall with “Butcher The Song,” a standout track from the band’s 2003 release, The Ugly Organ. If there is one song that sums up the band’s mission statement, this would be it. Backed by a lock-step groove, frontman Tim Kasher laments that he’s “writing songs to entertain / but these people, they just want pain / they wanna hear my deepest sins / songs from the ugly organ.”
Cursive fans revel in Kasher’s tales of domestic misery, and Kasher similarly seems to enjoy delivering his odes to broken hearts and loveless marriages quite immensely. Feeling bad, as all parties involved realized, can sound good.
At its best, Cursive resembles a Robert Smith-fronted post-hardcore D.C. band. Onstage, Kasher overly emotes everything—in a good way—while indulging in a series of theatrical affectations. Tearing through much of its back catalog, the band played fan favorites like “Bad Sects” (from 2006’s Happy Hollow) and “The Great Decay” (from 2001’s Burst And Bloom). Even new songs such as “Caveman” and “I Couldn’t Love You”—from the band’s less-than-stellar latest album, Mama, I’m Swollen—were invigorating in a live setting. Yet it was the material from the band’s 2000 release Domestica, including “The Casualty” and “The Game Of Who Needs Who The Worst,” that hit the hardest. On the latter, the band stretched the song to its limits, giving Kasher the space to deliver a vocal performance that truly captured the sleaze and betrayal that drives the song’s narrative.
Much has been made about the overtly adolescent tendencies of Mama, I’m Swollen, and Kasher appears to be writing for 20-year-olds these days. This is a bit strange, even creepy, for a band that looks like a bunch of aging grad students. And, after watching Cursive delve into its back catalog with such passion, it also seems unnecessary. Cursive’s strongest material deals with the confusion and tension that comes during post-adolescence, when you’re supposed to have figured everything out and don’t. There are plenty of bands that cover early-20s turmoil. What made Cursive unique is that they successfully captured the angst that comes with getting older. As any aging fan will tell you, 35 is way more scary than 21.
For those that felt a bit overwhelmed by Kasher’s pathos, Minneapolis-based rapper P.O.S. provided a refreshing antidote. During his 45-minute set, P.O.S. came across like an inspirational speaker, exhorting the audience to join him for the choruses of some of his better-known songs. Listening to P.O.S. lead the crowd in a chant of “every never is now” from the title track of his latest Never Better—you couldn’t help but feel optimistic, even inspired.