Throwback: Cursive — Burst and Bloom

Throwback / July 3, 2012

Throwback is a column which looks at older albums and the impact they’ve had on today’s scene. Whether still in their original pressing or now reissued, Julio Anta writes about his thoughts on the music when he first listened to it, along with his current thoughts on the record. In this week’s entry, he gives his thoughts on Cursive’s “Burst and Bloom,” which recently received a repressing for 2012 Record Store Day. It’s also receiving another pressing, which is up for pre-order at Interpunk.

Sometime in 2003, while in the 7th grade, my friend Jonathan and I performed in a short lived garage band playing mostly botched Blink-182 and Metallica covers. One afternoon, while chatting on AOL’s Instant Messenger, he introduced me to Cursive via “The Recluse.” In his own words, the song was “easy enough for me to play on drums.” Flattered, I gave it a listen, realized he was correct in his assumption – my limited skill would suffice for playing through the song – and proceeded to download the first slightly complete album I could find on Kazaa, entitled “Burst and Bloom.”

Now, nine years removed from my first listen, Omaha, Nebraska’s Cursive has released a total of seven albums and six EPs, carving out a solid career for an indie group approaching the end of its second decade. And while most bands achieving such longevity may find it appealing to rest on their laurels, writing the same tired record year after year, Cursive has been able to avoid this rut with continual progression accompanying each release. Although I haven’t dug into their discography as much as I’d like — my listening has remained within the realm of their full-length albums — I’ve found that it’s generally in a group’s more obscure 7-inch singles, EPs and compilation tracks where points of experimentation hint toward the sound that will further develop in later releases. Case in point: 2001’s Burst and Bloom and our proper introduction to cellist Gretta Cohn.

Often lauded as a turning point for the group, the EP marked the addition of Cohn, a 4-year member. Despite the fact that the songs are not as blended or diverse as the band’s later releases, they would instead play the more important role of subtly introducing the distorted cello that would dominate their following split 7-inch with Japanese band, Eastern Youth. That increased emphasis would then trickle through to the band’s most celebrated full-length album, “The Ugly Organ.”

But back to the work at hand. Opening with the self-analytical lyrics and slow burning crescendo of “Sink to the Beat,” coupled with the cello and snare drum interplay on “The Great Decay” and sheer intensity of “Mothership, Mothership, Do You Read Me?,” Burst and Bloom set the stage for the frantic and driving sound now typical of any Cursive record. During their last US tour supporting “I Am Gemini,” the band even played “Sink to the Beat” and “Mothership, Mothership, Do You Read Me?” interchangeably during the show’s encore, most likely as an ode to the similarities with their latest batch of songs.

As the years have gone by, my personal opinion is that other Cursive releases have surpassed Burst and Bloom in musicianship and lyrical content, but none have been as difficult for me to find on vinyl. After receiving an original pressing on black, the release went out of print and according to Saddle Creek Label Manager Jason Kulbel, became one of the label’s most consistently requested pieces of vinyl by both fans and stores. After months of digging through record store crates and coming in at the losing end of eBay auctions, the label finally announced a limited repressing of 1,500 units for 2012 Record Store Day, and a collective sigh of relief among Cursive fans and vinyl collectors alike was finally had. “It seemed like a good time to give it a shot. It’s definitely one of my favorite Cursive releases, so I’m glad it’s back in print,” said Kulbel.

Once April 21 rolled along, I found myself camped outside a small Virginia record store with a small group of record collectors awaiting dozens of limited releases. When the doors opened, it was a vicious free-for-all of vinyl nerds like myself fighting for the few copies of each release the shop had available. To say they were understocked would be an understatement. Suffice it to say, only one copy of Burst and Bloom was available and I snatched it up, seconds before another guy wearing a beard and black rimmed glasses was able to get his hands on it. I felt like a champion, and it made up for the disappointment of accidentally booking a trip to Virginia during my first Record Store Day as a New York City resident.

A few days later, I made it back to the city and was finally able to unpack a record I spent the greater part of a year searching for. Housed in a single pocket jacket, including a lyric insert and digital download card, I found the packaging mostly underwhelming, but of course fitting of an EP. As is with most Saddle Creek vinyl pressings, what may lack in notable packaging is always made up for with the actual wax. The color of my specific copy was a yellow marble matching the flowers of the album artwork, while other variants included white and black marbling, as well. Not only were the colors impressive, but the sound quality was superb. On “Tall Tales, Telltales” the organic sound native to vinyl is on full display during the song’s gigantic chorus. As Tim Kasher’s voice soars through the guitar leads, Matt Maginn’s bass lines find a more prominent role in the mix, and in my opinion, improve the transition made from the more timid verse and pre-chorus to a chorus as large as the one found on this song.

Further cementing Saddle Creek’s spot as one of indie-rock’s most fervent supporters of the vinyl format, Burst and Bloom’s repressing is one I appreciated greatly, and one they obviously put great care into. Thankfully, for the label and Cursive fans alike, it seems like the pressing was a success as another variant of the record on a clear yellow vinyl will be available very soon.

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Christopher Lantinen
Chris Lantinen is the owner and editor-in-chief of Modern Vinyl. Along with his modest collection of sad sounding records, he collects his share of soundtracks and previously adored indie up-and-comers. Chris is currently a professor of journalism and public relations at Edinboro University in the Erie, Pennsylvania area.

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