Record Review 

When no less an august institution than the New York Times acknowledges the fertile music scene fermenting in Omaha, Neb., that scene's individual contributors are going to run into a wall of heightened expectations. The members of Omaha indie quintet Cursive, at least, should have little to fear. With The Ugly Organ, they've delivered an arresting work of self-indulgent beauty. Self-indulgent because singer/songwriter Tim Kasher gives in to every questionable impulse. Beautiful because his bandmates -- most notably cellist Greta Cohn -- spin his anguished journal-entry vents and art-rock pretensions into a densely listenable disc.

From the outset -- the gripping "Some Red Handed Sleight of Hand" -- Kasher wants to have his cake and eat it too. "And now, we proudly present -- songs perverse and songs of lament," he sings, before acknowledging that "everything I hide ends up in lyrics" and "I've been making money off my indifference." But The Ugly Organ doesn't offer any telling insights into the nature of confessional songwriting; Kasher's just letting us know that he's aware of the fact that he's wallowing in post-divorce turbulence. "I'm writing songs to entertain," he tells a disgruntled fling on "Butcher the Song." "But these people, they just want pain." His words would carry more weight if Kasher weren't so readily eager to provide it.

Still, the album scores thanks mostly to the band's intuitive arrangements, half-lurching hesitance and half-self-assured rock 'n' roll expression, which animate the emotions behind Kasher's wailing more precisely than he's capable of doing himself.

Cursive plays the Echo Lounge Thurs., April 3.


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