Record Review - 1 July 22 2004

Saddle Creek Records is a regular cottage industry for the musicians of Omaha, Neb. And those who it has made into minor celebrities tend toward double dipping in the well, releasing side projects. Following label founder/Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst and new wave throwbacks the Faint’s bassist Joel Peterson’s dalliances in duality, Cursive frontman Tim Kasher occasionally puts down furious minor chords and his cynicism for a turn at shiny pop sheen. OK, the cynicism kind of hangs around, but Kasher does collaborate on occasion with whatever players aren’t currently on tour with Oberst to sing about the Good Life.

On the Good Life’s third release, Lovers Need Lawyers (the band’s first EP), Kasher outlines a screenplay of vignettes, from an ode to his inability to properly leave Omaha to a story about a man and woman who meet at a wedding and fall in and out of love in the course of a night. For the emo purists in the Cursive cult, handclaps and “ba-da-ba’s” may not sit well, but the foot-tapping catchiness and general good feeling in the musical arrangements actually lends more gravity to Kasher’s sardonic lyrics, which end up happily out of place.

On “Entertainer,” Kasher sings, “I’m not an artist/I’m an asshole without a job/Making money off alcohol,” while he and his cohorts generate an upbeat blend of snappy rhythms and Ryan Fox’s organ splashes — which act as the magic seasoning that pulls the sound together. While the instruments may change, the touch is distinctively Kasher’s, and his deft songwriting makes the Good Life a good way to spend time away from Cursive.

The Good Life plays the Echo Lounge Tues., July 27, 9 p.m. $8.