A band seemingly never at rest, even when it’s broken up or on hiatus, Cursive has become faithfully temperamental. The new I Am Gemini—its seventh album and sixth for Saddle Creek—is almost a meta-reference to this, a sort of post-punk opera about two opposite and warring halves. Foregoing the traditional lyric booklet, Gemini’s liner notes instead outline a despairing Shakespearean play about twin brothers separated at birth. The two, Cassius and Pollock, meet for the first time; a battle of self ensues and a home is destroyed as thunder rumbles in the background. Dramatic? Yes. Out of character? Not really.
Frontman Tim Kasher has always laid it on thick, never lyrically shying from his own crushing self-doubt or rock-bottom desperation. Call it the Robert Smith Complex: Every song in some way or another is about you, me, us, and we. But there’s something about Kasher’s unabashed revelry in all this hopeless, internal fighting that makes it worth the battle. I Am Gemini feels angrier than recent efforts; its guitar lines are sharper, its choruses are yelled. And even with the simpler instrumentation—long gone are the cellos and horns of past records—Gemini is forceful, a demanding rock-driven opus that sounds much more like the cousin to Domestica than it does the follow-up to Mama, I’m Swollen. “Light it up! Light it!” repeats Kasher on pummeling second-to-last track “A Birthday Bash.” It’s an exultant revelation, a thematic underscore to Cursive’s catalogue: Everything is fucked, so fuck it. “A lifetime brawling with demons makes a falling man,” Kasher continues on the album’s closing track, “Such turmoil in your head / Will it never let you rest?” The answer, apparently, is no.