I could’ve written my college thesis on the music and narrative of Cursive frontman, Tim Kasher. I mean, I would’ve had to change my major to Musical Cultural Anthropology or something, but the point is that I’ve thought a lot about Tim Kasher’s music and his story as a songwriter. He’s not my favorite artist, and I don’t necessarily like 100% of everything he puts out, but there is no one that has stimulated my wondering like he has; there is no one that seems to put himself so plainly within reach. Whether as part of Cursive, The Good Life, or under his real name, Tim Kasher is as earnest, open and self-aware as anyone in his lane.
The Ugly Organ, Cursive’s best or second best album depending on who you ask, is getting a bit of the revival-celebration treatment. To accompany a remastered re-release, Cursive is touring the album once again with a cellist in tow. They’ve released two tracks to promote the tour and the album, the rarity from a split EP with Eastern Youth, “Am I Not Yours?”, and the keystone song to their album, “Art is Hard.”
This album is the one that hooked me as a teen, and it mostly had to do with my discovery of metafiction. The Ugly Organ was, at times, music about music. On their earlier album Domestica, Kasher laid out the emotional wreckage of divorce, but here he’s concerned with the expectations and creativity of making the very song you’re listening to. Despite this, it was just as dramatic and painful. For a while, he had this immense talent for building a storm in his brain and then belting it out in disgust.
Post-Ugly Organ, Tim Kasher never really escaped the metafictional rut. I kept listening to his albums intently, like updates on where his creative flux had led him, waiting for a resolution to the story started on “Art is Hard.” He took to crafting short fiction on Happy Hollow and The Good Life’s Help Wanted Nights but by 2009’s Mama, I’m Swollen, he was back to scratching out his fierce frustrations with songwriting and the life he hadn’t led. When the fictions were awkwardly presented or less than stellar, as in I Am Gemini, it just seemed to amplify his earlier wrestling with “self-afflicted songs.”
“Art is Hard” is the beginning of a line of thought in Tim Kasher’s music that comes to the surface every now and again. It’s flotsam from a long-forgotten shipwreck, and every time it buoys back up, it reveals just how huge it really was.
The 2 LP/CD re-release, which includes 8 bonus tracks from The Ugly Organ era, is out November 24 via Saddle Creek.