Whereas 2000's Domestica explored the intense pain of Tim Kasher's divorce, The Ugly Organ is a tale of empty sex, overwrought melodrama, and metaphors of which the album's title is only the first. Kasher likes making you feel queasy, and Cursive backs him up with unpredictable instrumental turns. "Butcher the Song" could be about a lot of things, but it's definitely not happy, and its instrumentation lurches in stops and rushing starts like a drivetrain gone bad. "Art Is Hard" is much louder. "Keep turning out those hits! Till it's all the same old sh*t!" The clattering guitars shoot backward at Cursive's louder roots, but the knifing lyrics stab wildly at fans, the band, the industry -- any target available. Kasher and company are similarly restless throughout The Ugly Organ, and that sentiment makes the album both rewarding and frustrating. They're capable of great beauty, particularly in the sure hand of cellist Gretta Cohn, who first appeared on the Burst and Bloom EP but is a true force here. She adds a soaring melody to "Driftwood: A Fairy Tale," making it sound like Spoon with a fuller lineup. But the band also throws a thousand ideas into the wind on Organ, and a lot of them become just hints and melodrama. The ten-minute "Staying Alive" is flush with intensity but goes in too many different directions, while the brief "Herald! Frankenstein" doesn't expand far enough. Kasher's always pretty clear with his lyrics; he's having a post-coital conversation in "Gentleman Caller," he's the post-divorce depressive in "Recluse." But Cursive could use a little more clarity throughout The Ugly Organ, to fully capture the band's fractured and anxious, but always exuberant sound.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus