In which two estranged, schizophrenic twin brothers seek to murder/consume one another in the hope of becoming, finally, whole and sane once and for all. Paraphrase never tells the whole story, and even though I think that about gets it about right, there are admittedly a few other narrative stops that the I Am Gemini train makes – a carnival scene with two sisters conjoined at the head; a scene involving a chorus of devils forcing one of said brothers to drink “the old elixir,” thereby casting him into a deep sleep. You know, the usual.
Not that it’s so easy to follow the story; without the script (complete with stage directions) that accompanied my press copy, I would’ve been a lost soul. The brothers Cassius and Pollock recall the Greek myth of twins Castor and Pollux in name only (the myth has nothing to do with jealousy or murderous intent; it’s actually pretty much the dead opposite). So this record is not an attempt at retelling a myth, å la Anais Mitchell’s excellent Hadestown. Instead, it’s a dark, weird fable without a moral, a post-punk libretto born of Tim Kasher’s melodramatically gothic impulses. With no adulterous overtones or decent hooks, it’s no Ugly Organ; with no religio-social evangelizing, it’s no Happy Hollow; with little philosophical/anthropological questioning, it’s no Mama, I’m Swollen.
A little credit is due for the ambition of such a project; it’s as if Kasher had this idea in the back of his head for years and was waiting for the right time to make it happen. And there are precious moments of lyrical soundness. In opener “This House Alive,” Cassius, a reformed criminal, tells himself “Where there’s panic, lingers relapse— / Oh, no—those breakdown days are done” when he feels overwhelmed at returning to his childhood home. But far more often, Kasher is wordy and lame: “A little mouse creeps, as the mighty tomcat sleeps. / He’s been up forty nights, he needs his forty winks.” We know Kasher can do much better; in every release before I Am Gemini, he’s either maintained or advanced his wounded, imagery-laden style. It’s a step backwards musically, too. Happy Hollow was a collage of influence, and Mama was a rhythmic, percussive creation. I Am Gemini is all jerky distortion, an endless sputtering, as if Cursive set out to intentionally make ugly music. And maybe that really is what they were going for – but intention doesn’t guarantee enjoyment. Instead, we’re left with a broken rock opera of a record. As Pollock tells his brother as he’s about to perform some kind of lobotomy on him, “Doesn’t it seem to get a bit repetitive?”