The Ugly Organ is my favorite Cursive album, hands down, and it was Kasher's post-post break-up album. It was the culmination of all the promiscuity, drunken nights, and wrong words said turned into a corrosive morass of regret, jealousy, anger, and frustration. It played into the very definition of emo, of sleeve-wearing emotions, of self-obsession, and of self-loathing. Yet, it was an album about an album about those things. Meta-emo.
And emo is, perhaps, one of the most-maligned subgenres since disco. The thing is it isn't emo that sucks outright. It's the watered down versions of emo promulgated by the imitators and the coattail riders, who give it such a bad name. The Fall Out Boys. The Saves The Days. The Dashboard Confessionals. These are the bands, which steal the poo out of the apes' hands and fling it at the public indiscriminately, and it subsequently gets labeled emo all the way down to your little sister's pop station.
It's a tired subject to be sure, but Cursive often gets prematurely dismissed for being peripherally associated with emo and all its trappings, and I think the band deserves further scrutiny. Cursive is emo all the live-long day, but Saves the Day is not. The difference is Cursive has helped define the genre, has changed it, and pushed it to its limits, which, to me, deserves more than a shallow dismissal. Saves the Day is to emo as Creed is to grunge.
I'll be the first to say that I despise emo because my knee jerk reaction when I hear the word elicits thoughts of all the horrendous pop-punk schlockmeisters and tone-deaf whiners who spray their verbal fecal disasters in snot-nosed sugar-coated indignance, but when it comes down to it, some of my favorite albums are technically emo at their core: End on End, New Plastic Ideas, Repeater, Zen Arcade. If the definition of emo is held to light, any emotionally charged album played with any inherently rooted punk affectation is technically emo. Fuck, Joy Division is emo. The Cure is emo. It's silly.
And, yes, Cursive's past two albums are everything emo could ever aspire to be: tense, emotional, and cathartic. But Happy Hollow distances the band from its roots. Kasher has matured as a songwriter and a person. He obviously can't scream about girls forever, so, unless he wanted to become a mockery of himself, he had to shake things up a bit.
Happy Hollow is the first Cursive album to look outward. Kasher still has a lot of pent-up anger, but he knows how to express it better. Maturation usually signals the death knell of a band. Rock music and punk in particular, fuels itself on the reckless abandon of youth. Well, how does a punk band grow? Pure punks would say it doesn't. The punk thing to do would be to quit. But Kasher's never been a purist. He wants to take Cursive places it's never been, and, certainly, places you never thought it could go.
The growing pains are present, though slight, compared to Happy Hollow's grander effect. Kasher turns his angular guitar work into a pop-hook machine, supporting his endless melodies skewering religion, hypocrisy, stagnation, false ideals, and questioning our very existence. It's an ambitious, sprawling string of songs, littered with explosive tangents, skronking horns, and eviscerating lyrics. And, whether you care to call it emo or not, it's in the running for album of the year.