Published on October 2nd, 2018


Omaha, Nebraska is, for most people, less a destination than a middle-America reference point. But it’s also the longtime home of Saddle Creek, the Great Plains indie mecca that has put out foundational music by Conor Oberst and, from 1997 to 2012, the band Cursive. And whereas Oberst favors different incarnations — Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos, Monsters of Folk, et. al. — members of Cursive always seem to find their way back to this band as the outlet for their best, most adventurous ideas.

Their groundbreaking 2003 album, “The Ugly Organ,” blended indie and unexpected elements with an audacity that influenced a generation of musicians. Using cello, for example, in post-hardcore music was a gamble with a high risk of fan rejection. But the experimentation paid off.

It also marked a kind of endpoint. The ’90s had been good to Cursive, who were lauded for their concept-album ambitions and mentioned favorably alongside another great post-hardcore band, At the Drive In. It was also a period of relentless touring and life change. In 1998, founding guitarist Steve Pedersen quit to go to law school, and the band went on hiatus. Frontman Tim Kasher got married, moved to Portland, Oregon, and got divorced.

Vitriola Cover

Kasher channelled that experience into a band reunion (minus Pedersen) and into Cursive’s critically acclaimed 2000 album, “Domestica.” By the time of “The Ugly Organ,” it was clear to Kasher the band needed another break, and they approached the album as a summation and a swan song. Cursive poured everything into it, thinking it could be their last.

That absence held for about two years. “Happy Hollow,” (2006), “Mama, I’m Swollen,” (2009) and “I Am a Gemini” (2012) followed. As it turns out, the longest interval between Cursive albums — six years — was the one bringing us to this year’s “Vitriola,” the band’s first album on their own 15 Passenger label. The core lineup is one that hasn’t played together since “Happy Hollow”:  Kasher, singer-guitarist Ted Stevens, bassist Matt Maginn and founding drummer Clint Schnase.

“Vitriola” is also the first Cursive album to feature cello since “The Ugly Organ,” with cellist Megan Siebe and keyboardist Patrick Newbery rounding out the lineup.

Cursive plays October 25 at the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale. ~ Tim Moffatt

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