Vitriola

by Cursive

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about

Over the past two decades, Cursive has become known for writing smart, tightly woven concept albums where frontman Tim Kasher turns his unflinching gaze on specific, oftentimes challenging themes, and examines them with an incisively brutal honesty. 2000’s Domestica dealt with divorce; 2003’s The Ugly Organ tackled art, sex, and relationships; 2006’s Happy Hollow skewered organized religion; 2009’s Mama, I’m Swollen grappled with the human condition and social morality; and 2012’s I Am Gemini explored the battle between good and evil. But the band’s remarkable eighth full-length, Vitriola, required a different approach -- one less rigidly themed and more responsive as the band struggles with existentialism veering towards nihilism and despair; the ways in which society, much like a writer, creates and destroys; and an oncoming dystopia that feels eerily near at hand.

Cursive has naturally developed a pattern of releasing new music every three years, creating records not out of obligation, but need, with the mindset that each record could potentially be their last. 2015 came and went, however, and the band remained silent for their longest period to date. But the members of Cursive have remained busy with solo records, a movie (the Kasher-penned and directed No Resolution), and running businesses (the band collectively owns and operates hometown Omaha’s mainstay bar/venue, O’Leaver’s). The band even launched their own label, 15 Passenger, through which they’re steadily reissuing their remastered back catalogue, as well as new albums by Kasher, Campdogzz, and David Bazan and Sean Lane. And like many others, the band members have been caught up in the inescapable state of confusion and instability that plagues their home country, and seems to grow more chaotic with each passing day.

Which brings us to 2018 and Vitriola. For the first time since Happy Hollow, the album reunites Kasher, guitarist/singer Ted Stevens and bassist Matt Maginn with founding drummer Clint Schnase, as well as co-producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, M. Ward, Jenny Lewis) at ARC Studios in Omaha. They’re joined by Patrick Newbery on keys (who’s been a full-time member for years) and touring mainstay Megan Siebe on cello. Schnase and Maginn are in rare form, picking up right where they left off with a rhythmic lockstep of viscera-vibrating bass and toms, providing a foundation for Kasher and Stevens’ intertwining guitars and Newbery and Siebe’s cinematic flourishes. The album runs the sonic gamut between rich, resonant melodicism, Hitchcockian anxiety, and explosive catharsis -- and no Cursive album would be complete without scream-along melodies and lyrics that, upon reflection, make for unlikely anthems.

There’s a palpable unease that wells beneath Vitriola’s simmering requiems and fist-shakers. Fiery opener “Free To Be or Not To Be You and Me” reflects the album’s core: a search for meaning that keeps coming up empty, and finding the will to keep going despite the fear of a dark future. The album directs frustration and anger at not only modern society and the universe at large, but also inward towards ourselves. On “Under the Rainbow,” disquiet boils into rage that indicts the complacency of the privileged classes; “Ghost Writer” has a catchy pulse that belies Kasher chastising himself for writing about writing; and “Noble Soldier/Dystopian Lament” is a haunting look at potential societal collapse that provides little in the way of hope but balances beauty and horror on the head of a pin.

Vitriola raises a stark question: is this it? Is everything simply broken, leaving us hopeless and nihilistic? Maybe not. There can be reassurance in commiseration, and the album is deeply relatable: Cursive may not be offering the answers, but there is hope in knowing you're not alone in the chaos.

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released October 5, 2018

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Track Name: Free To Be Or Not To Be You And Me
So I dug deep down
Deep inside myself
To the pitted heart
Of this scabrous shell
Oddly, all I found
Was a nest of cells
On the hunt for some significance
The indifference of the
Chromosome prevailed

So I dug deep back
Through a fractured past
Marriage, work and school
Every dagger twisting branch
Sadly, all my story told
Was an aging man

Just another human organism
Obsessed with -isms
To live is to be in schism

Still, the search goes on
‘Cause it must go on
‘Cause I won’t be assuaged
By the cooing birds of inconsequence

So yes, I’m pissed
I feel cursed with life
I can’t just exist
When I need to know I’m right
And I’ll never know I’m right
And with this I’ll die
Never given any reason for—

What reason do you need to be alive?
Just merely survive
Or don’t — you are or you aren’t

What I sing right now
Someone’s screamed before
Time to take a bow
Before the stage is taken over

It’s a flash in the pan
All a flash in the pan
Gotta do what you can
On the head of a pin
Gonna sing into the void
And make some noise, noise
Does anybody out there hear this voice?

Just a flash in the pan
Free to be or not to be you and me
Clearly, I am clamoring to be
I know there is no point to this
I keep on crying out for transcendence
Track Name: Pick Up The Pieces
So, this is it
The world just fell to shit
And we’re left holding the bag
What do we do
With refuse we refuse
That no one’s taking credit for
This civil war ain’t civil anymore
They thrive when we’re divided hordes

Pick up the pieces one more time
Wash our hands of our parent’s crimes
Pick up the pieces
’Til we’re clean of pesky, guilty feelings

We’re back again
With the same arguments
All thoughts and prayers — no action
It’s all a fix
They’re sticking to the script
And we’re the rote recipients
They need dissent to run the show
More bullet points, more bullet holes

Pick up the pieces one more time
They shit the bed, we apologize
Pick up the pieces yet again
It makes no difference
But we can’t give in

It’s a game we know we can’t win
They know it too
But they need participants
Lest we think the news is new,
We’ve been on a loop
They’re just tightening the noose

Pick up the pieces, give a fuck
This world’s a turd to polish up
Pick up the pieces
We’re the yin, the yang,
It’s all the same
Track Name: It’s Gonna Hurt
You know it’s gonna hurt
But you do it anyway
If you know it’s gonna hurt,
Could you at least look away
Your trembling eyes betray your pain
You could never forgive me

You know it’s gonna hurt
But there’s nothing left to lose
You know it’s gonna hurt,
And you know it’ll hurt me too
You said, “fuck this world”,
You don’t owe it shit
And most nights I agreed with you;
I never thought you’d really do it

That crooked smile,
A soft ‘fuck you’ —
You could never forgive me

If the lies they spewed turned up true;
They said you knew what you were doing…
I could never forgive you

You know it’s gonna hurt
Track Name: Under The Rainbow
The one percent live in high rises
They block out the sun for all the denizens
Under the rainbow

They write the laws on guns and gods
And push ‘em upon the hard folk down below
Under the rainbow

Reading my palm, reading my charts
Reading my leaves, reading my tarot cards
They all know where I’m from
Under the rainbow

No prayer, no plan, no promised land

Wish I had time, wish I had hope
Wish I had mine, wish I could cope with this
We’ve been left all alone
Under the rainbow

You’ve got your dreams that won’t take hold
Boy, I shook myself awake so long ago
Under the rainbow

We’ve been fed lies, we’ve all been duped
And we don’t want to know the truth
This bubble suits us just fine
Under the rainbow

Checking the news, checking the stocks
Checking for clues, checking the doomsday clock
Who’s checking in on us?
Under the rainbow

No god, no gold, nowhere to go
Track Name: Remorse
The world can look distorted
When peering through a rocks glass
Is it not the life you asked for?
Join the club

Yet none of us will show remorse
Who of us will sow remorse
Track Name: Ouroboros
I am a parasite
I am a shill
I am that lowly snake
Chasing it’s tail

In the beginning, we were starving under stars
The stars told the farmers when to farm
Farms evolved into corporations
Corporations left us all to starve
And in the end, we’ll start again
Apocalypse will level every monopoly and monolith
Ouroboros

We were blessed with an enlightened intellect
Enlightened intellect made the internet
The internet gave the world a mouthpiece
That swallowed our enlightened intellect
The voice of man has been exposed
As vitriol — don’t gotta read between the HTML
Ouroboros

The writer will obsess over success
Success is like the carrot on a stick
Once the writer finds it’s just a carrot
The writer takes a shit all over it
‘Cause in the end the masterpiece
Won’t be achieved —
Who the fuck is achieving mastery?
Ouroboros

Society has got a heinous case of crabs
Everybody’s got an itch to scratch
This manmade bucket we’re all stuck in
We’re all fucking over each other’s cousin
So, serve it up — surf n’ turf
It could be worse
You could be eating your words or your own foot
Ouroboros

I am a parasite
I am a shill
I am a cannibal
Eating my words

I am a parasite etisarap a ma I
I am a shill llihs a ma I
I am that lowly snake ekans ylwol taht ma I
Chasing it’s tail liat s’ti gnisahC

Ouroboros soroboruO
Track Name: Everending
We think we want to live forever
It’s an unrealistic feat
I don’t want to live forever
I can’t bear the agony

I don’t want to live to outlove everyone
Goddamn — one life is hard enough
All this beauty’s everending

Every sunrise you attempt
Every sunset you neglect
They’re counting down to finity
Nothing seems so evergreen
When everything is everending

It’s that time of year again
Tree’s stripped of their elegance
Our skeletons ache in our skins
Seasons passing, as do we
You and me are everending
You and me are everending
You and me are ever —
Trying to make a diamond out of coal
Trying to make a mountain out of mulch

Everybody’s drinking heavy
We’re in a hurry to be done
The point of all of this eludes us
Like a snowflake on the tongue

We’re uniquely on the brink of extinction —
this blip of life is one and done
All this beauty’s everending

I try to find significance
In each line that I commit
An exercise in senselessness
Time will scrub our past from us
Memory is everending

In the Winter of our lives
Will we hibernate or fight?
What’s the upside to survive
It may be short and ran it’s course
Life is rich and everending
Life is rich and everending
Life is rich and ever —
Trying to make a molehill seem more grand
Trying to make a mountain —

it’s just sand upon eroding shores
A city bombed and since ignored
A simple dream you can’t recall
a glimpse into a crystal ball
You and me, forever everending
A brilliant flash of fantasy

Trying to make this life seem less absurd
Trying to make a mountain out of words
Track Name: Ghost Writer
I’m at your secretary
Writing quips in your diary
Inflating your life story
Poor taste and rich hyperbole

Nobody asked me to do this
Yet, here I am
These exorcisms are useless
But then again…
If it’s the last note I’m writing
I’ll make it a grand finale

Rampant politicizing
This constant finger wagging
It’s not a drama anymore
How’d your life become one big horror

Nobody asked my opinion
Yet, here it is
We’re in an unholy union
With arrogance
This is the last note I’m writing
This world has never felt less inviting to me
— There you go again —

It’s just a simple entry
Some light prose, sad and sweet
You had to go and fuck with the wording
You gotta shit on everything

Ghost write your wrongs

Nobody asked for an encore
Yet, here I am
This epilogue is an eyesore
It makes no sense

This is the last note I’m singing
Can you imagine such hubris got me this far?
Track Name: Life Savings
Living in a statistic
Sailboats floating on their flow chart
I don’t wanna live like this
A day in the sun, swimming with sharks

There’s no future, only money, money
No ‘me and you’, it’s only money, money
Money buys a bright future
But we will be forever indentured — money, money
May we never get what we deserve — money, money

Head down, anonymous
The more you comply is the more you subsist

There’s no scruples, only money, money
Dollars or rubles, it’s all money, money
Money buys you clemency
In a clandestine economy — money, money
Bagged and price tagged, dangling off your feet

Living in a statistic
Sailboats floating on their sales graph
I don’t wanna die like this
They wanna make waves, capsize the craft

Underneath the bathroom sink
In a wooden box with a broken lock
You can find my life savings
A high school ring and baseball cards
And when this horror’s over
And the greenback’s all but trashed
Currency will be our head and hands —
So, you don’t want to lose your head

You can’t afford to lose that

Don’t sell yourself to me
You do it for the money
You sell the dream to me
You do it for the money
You’re selling us your innocence
Don’t sell your faith to me
You do it for the money
You’re selling us your ignorance

Your money is counterfeit

May we never get what we deserve
Money, money
Track Name: Noble Soldier / Dystopian Lament
NOBLE SOLDIER

Push it back, push it back,
push it out of your head now
Push it back, push it back,
push it out of your head now, my friend
Don’t recall what you saw
Modern life is behind you
Don’t recall what you saw
Freedom’s a dream

Don’t look up, don’t look up
Don’t look into the mirror
Don’t look up, don’t look up
You won’t like what you’re seeing in there
It’s just a shell, just a shell
It’s a vessel of who you once were
Shell shocked, well heeled
Noble soldier —
It’s over, over, over
Push it back now
Push back, push back
Push it out now
It’s over, over
Push it out now
Push back, push back
The life you knew is over


DYSTOPIAN LAMENT

I used to fall for love
For family and for friends
I used to fall for unity
Despite our differences

I used to fall for trust
The decency of man
I used to fall for secrecy
’Til a neighbor played my hand

I used to fall for math
A universal truth
I used to fall for science books
Until they were removed

I used to fall for hope
The promise of our youth
I used to fall for change
’Til our youth became recruits

I used to fall for currency
To dictate what I’m worth
I used to fall for ancestry
Now I know we’re fucked from birth

I used to fall for news
I’d check it each morning
I used to fall for freedom of speech
Before the red warning

I used to fall for anarchy
But loved the world too much
I used to fall for rioting
’Til the sentry locked us up

Now I fall in line
Now I fall in line
Now I fall in line
Now I fall in line
Fall in line
Fall in line
Fall in line
Fall in line

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