The Difference Between Houses and Homes bridges the gap between Cursive's acclaimed 2003 LP, Ugly Organ, and an LP scheduled for sometime in 2006. It features two previously unreleased songs from the Omaha band's formative era, as well as material from since out of print 7"s released from 1995 through 2001. There's also a Tim Kasher-penned story that plays out across the pages of the booklet. Designed like a children's tale and vividly illustrated by Yuriko Yoshino (think woodcuts and mottled watercolor), the story seems like a rough allegory for Cursive's own bumpy and dramatic trajectory. Musically, Houses and Homes is mostly stellar. Unreleased opener "Dispenser" is a splintered and spiny rocker dating from 1995, comparable to "Ceilings Crack" on Such Blinding Stars for Starving Eyes, or maybe just Archers of Loaf. From 1997, "Sucker & Dry" is similar, a disjointed triumph of sloppy chords and Kasher's thrashing, barely (but perfectly) in key vocals. Fans of Cursive's later, more dynamic era will look to "Nostalgia"; the only selection here to include cellist Gretta Cohn, it's also a terrifically unbalanced dance between indie rock and exploratory squelch. Some of the stuff on The Difference Between Houses and Homes will be for completists only, like the meandering "The Knowledgeable Hasbeens" and "There's a Coldest Day in Every Year." But even those tracks bring something to the Cursive table, a few ounces of cleverness. And after all the serious talk about the gloomy motivations for Ugly Organ and the band's struggle, it's pretty great to hear Kasher on "Pivotal" from 1998's The Icebreaker 7", where he's just screaming out an anthem. Grainy, distraught: "Nothing to relate to! Nothing to replace you!"
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus