A classic concept album, Mama, I’m Swollen is the story of one man’s epic struggle against growing up, accepting social norms, working crappy jobs and staying home with the wife and baby. The songs work best when mundane complaints are replaced by fantasy images, as in the lounge-crawling “We’re Going to Hell” or the Pinocchio-inspired “Donkeys.” Tim Casher sings lead vocals with the melodious intensity of an American Robert Smith, which fits the material but can occasionally grate on the ears.
The dramatic conceit, borne out by an artsy lyric sheet, is that this album originates from a single rambling note written by a man cast adrift on the town after a lovers’ spat. The question is: Who thought overwrought late night-ramblings could or should be set to music in their entirety? “I Couldn’t Love You” is maudlin, and “Caveman” is too wordy to be any fun. The pervasive religious imagery is intriguing but over-the-top.
I give Cursive props for producing a concept album in the age of the downloadable single, but listening to Mama, I’m Swollen is like watching a stage play adapted from a 19th-century German bildungsroman: interesting once, but I’m not going there every night.
Cursive plays the Palace Lounge Sunday, June 21, at 9 PM, with Boxelder. $13.