Album Reviews: Happy Hollow by CursiveCursive roars and rouses on Happy Hollow, their conceptual foray into small-town America, its churches and all the skeletons therein. Frontman Tim Kasher has been criticized in the past for using his concept albums as a thin screen for self-absorption, but Happy Hollow and its "hymns for the heathen" find Kasher turning his eyes not just outward but far outward: to the heavens. When he finds that God is out on vacation ("Retreat!"), he suggests that maybe we're better off without Him. Instead of offering alternative answers, Kasher simply suggests that listeners think for themselves -- and find their own answers.
Blasphemy! And, what's worse, it's good-sounding blasphemy. Instead of replacing the very valuable Gretta Cohn with another cellist, Cursive instead went into battle with a horn section, and the resulting swagger provides a gigantic, ostentatious boost to highlight tracks like "Big Bang" and "Bad Science." Kasher character-hops around his fictional small town, but wherever he winds up, he usually comes out throwing haymakers. The Church is his primary target on Happy Hollow, whether on quiet ruminations of repressed sexuality ("Bad Sects") or the intelligent design-bashing "Big Bang," which rolls its eyes at the part of the world where talking snakes are given credence but evolution is ridiculed.
The first half of Happy Hollow is quite possibly Cursive's strongest output to date, sharply written and hard-charging in a way that conveys anger and frustration -- Cursive staples -- but also manages to be simply and purely a fun album to rock out to. Kasher, too, has seldom sounded better, whether summoning the desperation of a solider about to be shipped off to war (the rampaging "Flag and Family") or a woman stuck in a world of suffocating suburban ennui ("Dorothy Dreams of Tornados").
The second-half doesn't flop, but doesn't hit home runs like the front end. If anything, though, the subject matter gets even bolder, as Cursive tackles unplanned pregnancy on "At Conception" and condemns narrow-minded religious doctrine -- once more for good measure -- on the anthemic "Rise Up! Rise Up!" - Adam McKibbin, The Red Alert
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