MANY ARTISTIC WORKS are dedicated to the study of the duality of the mind, the inherent futility of attempting to outrun your subconscious. It's less common, however, to find these heady themes bubbling from an Omaha, Nebraska, post-punk group. Unless that band is Cursive, of course, in which case you can go ahead and burn the syllabus. With their seventh LP, I Am Gemini, the band reveals a striking dichotomy between rock-opera boldness and a vivid return to their seminal, screechy beginnings in the late '90s.
With echoes of Prokofiev—less Peter, more Wolf—I Am Gemini dissects the nightmarish return of Cassius to his childhood home, where he's soon confronted by his long-lost twin Pollock. The album is part homage to psychological masterpieces like Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray and quasi-horror works like Frankenstein, with compositions providing instrumental nuance and accents.
"The story had been rattling around for a while, a loose idea of writing about a person trapped inside his own head," explains vocalist/guitarist Tim Kasher. "Since it's set to music, I suppose there was a tendency to write something a bit classical [or] traditional."
While those elements of classical interplay do rise to the surface, it's the return to the angular guitar-rock of Cursive's 2000 touchstone Domestica that turns a track like "Wowowow" into a chaotic catharsis. On Gemini, though, the focus is less on the raw power of the epileptic minor chord than on those same techniques used as the bedrock for a script.
"I only had a general sense of the story while working on initial songs," admits Kasher, "but we were leaning toward music that would sound as if it were suffering from a sort of schizophrenia."
Despite the linear storytelling, don't count on the entire album being performed front-to-back anytime soon; walking out on a limb doesn't mean you should break it on purpose.
"It's a fun idea, and would be nice to lay out the story in a live setting," says Kasher, "but it's not necessary: These are still separate tracks, we still write songs."