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Album Review: Tim Kasher – “The Game of Monogamy”

Posted on 24 October 2010 by Mylynda Guthrie

I have a strange and wonderful relationship with Cursive front man and The Good Life troubadour Tim Kasher. I got into him very early on, via a mixtape (yes, a tape. Yes, I am getting old.) from my middle school’s only other indie kid. The fact that we both wore Chuck Taylors and exchanged mixtapes resulted in some lesbian rumors which I guess makes sense as our relationship was one of self-discovery. Only, instead of discovering each others prepubescent chests, we discovered something far better: Stephen Malkmus. I gave her Elliott Smith and Eels. She gave me The Dismemberment Plan and Cursive. To be more specific, she gave me Cursive’s “Cielings Crack” from their debut release, Such Blinding Eyes For Starving Eyes. And I was smitten. At the time, I was heavy in like with a boy who didn’t see me as anything more than “one of the guys” (probably because of those lesbian rumors) so the sentiments of Kasher’s screams echoed long and hit heavy. “I know I’m just a peon to you, but I deserve more,” he shouted and inside, I said “Eff yeah. I do deserve more. This guy gets it. He gets it!” Some years later, the same friend asked me to recommend her some happy music. I told her I’d been listening to The Ugly Organ a lot. When she informed me that Cursive was just about the furthest thing from “happy music”, I told her that she had done this to    me and really, she had. Without her, who knows when I would have discovered Cursive, or The Good Life for that matter, and what affect they would have had on my life.

Just like everyone who’s ever been bummed about heartbreak, Album of the Year holds a special place in my heart and “Sierra” gets me to shed a tear every time it comes up on my iTunes library. Black Out has more than a few songs that mirror my life and seeing Cursive play a cover of The Cure’s “Lovecats” to less than 200 die hard Kasher fans in DeKalb, Illinois ranks as one of the best moments of my musical life thus far. I heard rumors of a Tim Kasher solo show at Schubas in Chicago brewing before I heard any announcement of his solo debut, The Game of Monogamy, so when I heard that the man himself was releasing a solo debut, I had two thoughts: 1) Complete and utter fan girl excitement (Oh my god, did I mention the time Tim complimented my shoes you guys?! That totally happened! In real life!) and 2) Wait… Why?

You see, Kasher started The Good Life as a way to release all the songs that didn’t fit with his career with Cursive. Since that time, The Good Life has progressed from a electro-indie band to confessional acoustics and Cursive? Well, they just do whatever they damn well please these days. So really, a solo album from Kasher just doesn’t make sense. Surely, one of his outfits could be well suited enough for The Game of Monogamy.

Tim Kasher – Cold Love from Saddle Creek on Vimeo.

Apparently not. The theatrics Kasher displayed with Cursive on The Ugly Organ? Imagine that ten fold and you have the first ten minutes of The Game Of Monogamy. With his solo debut, Kasher has written a mainstream musical, complete with horn sections, pop arrangements, abrupt tempo changes, and storytelling lyrics. The only problem is… well, frankly put, all of these songs would sound better bare bones, Album of the Year style. Another problem? Well, aside from the unabashed mainstream overtones of the album, Kasher has, at one time or another, done everything here before. That isn’t to say the man is losing his talent, as he once expressed fear over in “No News Is Bad News”. Kasher’s songwriting is just as wonderfully, brutally, honest and self-loathing as ever but what Kasher has done on The Game of Monogamy was just better the first time around. Those horn sections that litter “I Think I’m Gonna Die Here”? They just fit better on Happy Hallow. The strings on “There Must Be Something I’ve Lost”? It was cooler when it was on “Driftwood: A Fairytale”.

No Fireworks

That isn’t to say that The Game Of Monogamy does not have it’s appeal. “No Fireworks”, in particular, is another damn near perfect Kasher composition, the type of song he does so well that manages to do nothing less than encapsulate my personal life with lyrics like “I thought love was supposed to spill from our hearts…. But I can’t feel anything at all.” Much like “What Have I Done” and “Staying Alive” before it, “No Fireworks” is a song for the ages of Amber Valentine, a lament of the sad state of my personal life, a dirge for my once a-flutter heart. If love has to suck so bad, at least I have Kasher to commiserate with me.

By the time the album wraps up, with “Monogamy”, if your ears have adjusted to the shock of Kasher’s polished sound, the closing tracks beauty will not be lost on you. Heck, even if your ears haven’t adjusted (as mine seem unable to do), you’ll be able to take note of “Monogamy”. The track sums up the entirety of the album, closing it on the somber note that makes it clear that monogamy was just a “charade”, a “game”, as the album title points out. Once again, just as with all of the endeavors Kasher puts to music, he’s failed. Is it shocking? No. “Ten years of wedded bliss” is not for people like Kasher, over grown teenagers who still lust after high school girlfriends, who want to sleep with every girl they see, just to see what it’s like.

For all it’s musical downfalls, The Game Of Monogamy is not a bad album by any means but the fact of the matter is that, honestly, I just can’t help but expect more from Kasher. My exceptions for the man, after all, are quite high. But at the end of the day, “Just Don’t Get Caught”, the country tinged b-side to Kasher’s Cold Love single, is just more appealing to me than anything that made the actual album’s cut.

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