The members of Cursive have never hesitated to walk away from their long-running band: The Omaha group, now entering its 14th year, has broken up at least once and gone on hiatus after every album since 2003’s The Ugly Organ. After 2006’s fantastic Happy Hollow, it looked like the hiatus could stick: Original drummer Clint Schnase quit, leaving guitarist-vocalist Tim Kasher, bassist Matt Maginn, and guitarist Ted Stevens wondering whether to follow suit. They decided to write music regardless, and figure out who they were later.
Wander though they may—especially Kasher and his active side project, The Good Life—they always return, this time with new drummer, Cornbread Compton. Mama, I’m Swollen is very much a Cursive record, full of volatility, dynamic instrumentation, and Kasher’s unyielding doubtfulness about the fate of his soul and the musician’s life of perpetual adolescence. The closer, “What Have I Done?”, plays like a reverse “My Way”: “I was out there in the world / yeah then the world had passed me by / I was telling everyone back home / that I was taking it by storm / instead I watched it from the roadside.” Thankfully, Kasher’s strength as a lyricist saves the record from morose navel-gazing. Although the album drags in its back third, Mama, I’m Swollen is a strong addition to Cursive’s catalog. If the band weren’t so reliably mercurial, it’d be easy to start taking Cursive for granted.