Mama, I’m Swollen
Midlife crisis: the record. Mama, I'm Swollen is Cursive’s first record without their original drummer. Clint Schnase offers a window into a world of loss and longing: longing for youth, answers, and mommies. In our new world of hope, Cursive creates a microcosm of desolation where women are a nuisance and hindrance to a man’s freedom, yet simultaneously bring them their only comfort in this dark, cold place.
On "Donkeys"—the band’s shout out to Pinocchio—the band’s singer and front man, Tim Kasher, wails:
I'm going to Pleasure Island
I ain't comin' back home
Mama's thumpin' her Bible
She swears we're going to hell
And papa's just jealous
He wants to come here as well
We may be donkeys
But at least we have a tale to tell
Let me get this straight. So a man running out on his partner and their child is unattainable happiness? Succumbing to the evils of the universe is preferable to supporting your family? Debatable at best! To be fair, these lyrics could just as easily be interpreted as an old man longing for his youth, the period of time when he had the option of making horrible mistakes. But "Mama and her given role of religious sour matron" seems a relatively dour vision; it may have been overlooked if the next track "Cavemen" didn’t go on to say "I'm no happy family man/I'm no husband ain't no dad/I'm a goddamn caveman." Obviously someone is having family entrapment issues.
Caveman also highlights the thread of these irrepressible animal instincts, instincts that drive an individual away from modern conventions like career building and family and towards reckless spontaneous action. Somehow it is unnatural to pursue anything further than "swinging in the trees." It's safe to say that we should avoid fantasizing about the return of a time stereotyped by female caricatures that are clubbed into submission.
On the flip side, we have not one but two tracks in which the singer seems to be speaking directly to a mother figure. In "Mama, I’m Satan," Kasher sings:
My fathers and brothers
Raped your sisters and mothers
We are the sons of butchers
All in all we're pawns
The darkness of mankind stirs in us all
While the comfort of a mother’s arms are the only possible solace for this man, it is women who are raped. Here is this man whining for not one but two songs—one-fifth of the album—to his mother.
Obviously, the band is coming to terms with lost love, aging, and a great period of questioning. For better or worse, Cursive has really come to no conclusions. Exposing a lot of darkness in the world with a hint of remorse for hope, Mama, I'm Swollen takes you deep into the mind of the middle-aged man. You might not like what you hear.