Stylized penmanship is a weird craft,” says Tim Kasher, Cursive’s frontman. “It’s this craftsmanship that they imprint onto children. But we knew the band was going to be regimented and disciplined, and Cursive seemed like the right name.”
Kasher has terrible handwriting – and a gift for playing raw-throated hard rock precisely, with all the t’s crossed and i’s dotted. The Ugly Organ, the fourth full-length album from the Omaha, Nebraska band, careens between jackhammer volume and quiet intensity with herky-jerky rhythms, all ignited by the friction between the guitars and Gretta Cohn’s cello. It’s also full of Kasher’s unhappy, self-conscious ruminations on making music, such as, “There’s no use to keep a secret/Everything I hide comes out in lyrics.” On the best track, “Butcher the Song,” the singer argues with a girlfriend who complains about how she comes off in his songs: “Each album I’ll get shit on a little more/ ‘Who’s Tim’s latest whore?'”
Kasher says his sister Jamie has figured out why he keeps spilling out his diary into his lyrics: “She told me that I was a romantic person who wanted to be with people, but what I’m actually obsessed with is writing – the sooner I accepted that, the happier I would be.” His literary bent is so great that the lyrics to The Ugly Organ are presented with stage directions (“Enter second gentleman caller, stage left”).
In 1998, Kasher broke up the first incarnation of Cursive and moved from Omaha to Portland, Oregon, where he tried to put together another band. When that failed, he moved back to Omaha, only to rediscover his hometown’s burgeoning alternative-rock scene, featuring the Faint and Bright Eyes. Kasher did learn one lesson from his ill-fated year in the Northwest: “It’s really hard finding people who will put up with your bullshit and trust that you’ll make something out of it.”
This story is from the April 17th, 2003 issue of Rolling Stone.