Mama, I'm Swollen - Cursive

What the hell happened here? 

Mama, I'm Swollen was released on the indie-friendly Saddle Creek record label (Bright Eyes,Sorry About Dresden, Tokyo Police Club, Art in Manila, Criteria) this February. I am sad to report, this album is void of any emotional edge or flavor of any sense. As is the established norm with Cursive, lyrics include a pretentious attempt to mirror the highly intellectual words of other alt-indie artists. Problem is, these guys simply are not that smart.

This album is boring, lifeless and heartless. Of the ten songs on the album, I only particularly enjoyed "In the Now," "From the Hips," and "Mama, I'm Satan." In the Now is a rock-driven anthem song with lyrics proclaiming ignorance as bliss, "Don't want to live in the now! Don't want to know what I know!" From the Hips is a sexy tune addressing human's aptitude for communication through body contact. Good shit. Lastly, the only song that is truly worth your time on this album is the beautiful "Mama, I'm Satan." The song fluctuates from serene to haunting. Smooth music accompanies light lyrics for the first few seconds of the song until Tim Kasher reminds us ignorant music addicts - "The ego of mankind stirs in us all." This quasi ballad then assumes the role of a chilling expose of the evil in society's collective soul. Yeah, this song is gnarly, but it alone is not enough to save this album.

Review Score: 6 out of 10

Wait scratch that, just found out one of the band members shares the name of the Alaskan senator that created the bill funding the "Bridge to Nowhere."

Review Score: 5 out of 10


It's Great to Be Alive - Fake Problems

Released on February 17th, 2009, "It's Great to Be Alive" has already solidified it's spot as one of the top indie rock Cd's of the year. This organically beautiful album is the sophomore release of Naples, FL based Fake Problems. The follow up to the critically acclaimed "How Far Our Bodies Go", ITGTBA is a representation of the band's maturation. With a new found, subtle edge, Chris Farren now tackles issues such as frilly materialism in women, spirituality struggles, abusive relationships, and the human race's condition of inflated ego - "pretend your something more than you, but your not."

Fake Problem's music has improved exponentially. Bells and whistles are heard throughout the album ( I saw to god I heard a glockenspiel on Diamond Rings) and Heart BPM includes quite possibly the most moving guitar solo of the year. Sean Stevenson's drum performance on the album is remarkable, moving smoothly from staccato snare taps to filling tom beats. Farren's voice is much more diverse and satisfying, high lights include Don't Worry Baby and the emotional Heart BPM. The ever present cow bell is still around in IGTBA, however while it was starkly annoying and distracting in Fake Problem's previous album, they have somehow discovered a way to make Will Ferrell's instrument of choice into a legit musical piece.

Overall, "It's Great to Be Alive" is simply a pleasure to listen to.  The guys from Fake Problems should be applauded for straddling that fine line between releasing a rehash of their previous success and completely abandoning their established fan base. This album is a cherished piece of my musical collection. Fake Problems is currently on tour with the venerated Riverboat Gamblers who are promoting their newest release, "Underneath the Owl."

Review Score: 9 out of 10