Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
The institution of marriage is sure taking a beating on Tim Kasher's new record. It's a bloody mess. It's body shot, after uppercut, after body shot, after uppercut. Marriage's eyes are swollen, almost shut, and its lips are pulpy, with a red syrup draining out of the two corners. There's a dazed look on its face, but we don't feel at all bad about marriage in this instance, as it should have probably seen the assault coming. We are talking about Kasher here, who for the goodly portion of his songwriting career - with Cursive, The Good Life and under his own name - has taken aim at the fruitful playground of all of those rocky relationships that he's seen come, blow up in a puff of smoke and fire and go. It's been a steady stream of boyfriends and girlfriends, wives and husbands, all experiencing irreconcilable woes and sadness, leading them to take whatever necessary steps were available to them at the time to remove themselves from that particular environment. These are situations that remind me of something that I saw while walking around downtown this morning. There was a pigeon flying inside an old restaurant that has been boarded up for years and years, with the chairs and tables just sitting silently gathering dust in the middle of the big, long room. The bird was panicked and throwing itself against the dirty glass, trying to find any way out. It just kept throwing itself against what it thought was freedom, only to fall time and again onto the filthy carpet. There's nothing that anyone else could do for the creature and it was going to keep trying until it hit its head or neck too hard against that pane and expired.
The characters in Kasher's latest record, "The Game of Monogamy," are much like that ill-fated pigeon, banging their heads and banging their heads, knowing only one thing: This is a bad place and I can't get away. Why can't I get away? I need out. The man (or men) that filter in and out of Kasher's songs on this record sound as if they were tricked into a monogamous relationship, a marriage or whatever they had, and they were defiant about the reverberations. They didn't want kids. They didn't want mortgages. They weren't sure what they wanted at all, but they could tell you what they didn't want. All they really knew is that they were being stifled and a lot of that came from the age-old expectations of what a man is supposed to do when he reaches a certain age. He's supposed to bring home the bacon and perhaps be the kind of man that he's never seen himself as, just to appease…who?
Kasher seems to suggest, in his grizzled tone, that there are a ton of incomplete people out there, rambling around as full-grown, turned lazy and restless by love as they "settle into the furniture." He sums up many of his feelings about being in one relationship - actually, just being in plain old love - for any lengthy period of time in "There Must Be Something I've Lost," singing, "Maybe I am becoming too marginalized/When I was young I believed in love/But hey, I also believed in God/I know, I know, I know, I know, I wanna believe I love you again/I believe in a suburban heaven, blissfully ignorant/I know, I know it's not so bad/I should just settle down, and settle down, and settle down, and settle down." What always makes Kasher such a heartbreaking writer is that all of his characters start from a place of wanting what's supposed to come next, right up until they realize that this has all been a mistake. It's not what they want at all. The puppies that they picked up and made family were fine, the nights shared were fine, the love made was fine then. But all of that seems like a long time ago now and so they're ungracefully flying themselves into the plate glass - the outside, the freedom seemingly right there.
Tim Kasher Official Site
Saddle Creek Records