In the summer of 2002, Eastern Youth, the most conscientious punk band in Japan, released “Eight Teeth to Eat You,” a split CD with the Omaha emo-core band Cursive. Then they announced they would bring the group to Japan for a short joint tour. Unfortunately, Cursive frontman Tim Kasher suffered a collapsed lung just before the tour was to start.
It’s taken them more than a year to make it up, but there is a silver lining. When Cursive finally hits these shores in late October they will have added to their repertoire the 12 songs that comprise “The Ugly Organ,” which Kasher and company released last spring. It may be their finest record to date, which is saying a lot because their previous record, “Cursive’s Domestica,” is considered an emo-core masterpiece. Emo-core — especially emo-core from the Midwest — doesn’t always sit too well with die-hard punks, but Kasher’s self-lacerating logorrhea is not as self-consciously clever as labelmate Bright Eyes or as callow as current standard-bearer Dashboard Confessional; and he rocks twice as hard as either. “Domestica” was a song cycle about Kasher’s failed marriage, and though the lyrics sometimes resorted to soap-opera cliches (“Dinner’s getting cold/You haven’t touched a thing”), the music bore down on the listener like an abusive parent. “Organ” is another concept album, but the concept is a bit vaguer, and Kasher interrupts the continuity with comments about the potential pretentiousness of what he’s trying to accomplish. In the painfully descriptive “Art is Hard,” he screams at himself, “Your self-inflicted pain is getting too routine,” while the band pounds out a Cossack beat that is anything but routine.
After “Domestica,” Cursive added cellist Gretta Cohn to the full-time lineup, and her participation adds real weight to Kasher’s ambitious songs. Purists may find the presence of a string player at a punk show a bit curious, but it’s difficult to imagine these songs being as hard-hitting as they are without her. The band will share the bill with either Eastern Youth or fOUL, another excellent Japanese indie band.
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