If the name Tim Kasher somehow rings unfamiliar to you, perhaps you’re just not aware of some of the music the guy has been behind. Kasher is at the moment responsible for two excellent and distinctly different bands, Cursive and The Good Life. It’s Cursive that has been around the longest, having put out about 8 albums worth of highly emotional punk rock with increasingly dramatic flair. The Good Life is arguably a bit quieter and personal in nature, and though the music doesn’t always fully back it up, there’s plenty of drama in that too. To call Kasher a drama “queen”/king wouldn’t be out of line, and that only becomes clearer the closer you examine his remarkably personal lyrics. Kasher is also a fan of the concept album, and he’s used everything from “The Wizard of Oz” (Cursive’s “Happy Hollow”) to chronicling the good and bad moments a relationship goes through in a year (The Good Life’s “Album of the Year”). Somehow though the main theme always seems to get back to good love gone bad and winding up desperate and alone. No matter how “impersonal” he claims these stories are, the characters in Kasher’s songs are almost never happy, or if they are, it’s not for very long. Why do we pay attention to these sad sack tales Kasher keeps throwing our way? Well, part of it is probably the relatable aspect of it all, because almost all of us have had a relationship go bad at one time or another in our lives. The other part is that Kasher always has such well-rounded wordplay. He’s not quite Shakespeare, but there’s such a vividness to the stories he tells that not many people can do or at least do well. All that said, Tim Kasher has finally decided to release an album under his own name, and true to form he’s titled it “The Game of Monogamy”.
Anyone thinking that “The Game of Monogamy” is a record looking to endorse the values of marriage should probably check the title more carefully. The word “game” is the trick here, because apparently keeping happiness and fidelity with a partner is about as challenging as Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit. So the album is by no means positive on relationships in general, though if you’re single or suffering from breakup-itis, there’s wisdom to be found in these words. Of course that “wisdom” could also put you off taking on a partner for the rest of your life, so interpret things quite liberally and without too much weight. Just because Kasher (or the “characters” he’s created) is unhappy with how his long-term relationships have turned out doesn’t mean you have to be. But lyrics do come first in any Kasher project, and this is no exception. “I’m Afraid I’m Gonna Die Alone” deals with the topic the title describes, though the main point is more about how two cheating partners stay together because of that fear. “You said baby, you worry so much about dying/you forget to really live/well maybe so/now tell me, who you been with?” he exclaims amid some rather pleasant organ and a very peppy horn section. In other words, the song has all the hallmarks of a pretty good single, save for the dark lyrical content. One of the two is probably implied sarcasm, though it’s difficult to tell exactly which. At least “Strays” has some good intentions, holding down this simple ballad with an acoustic guitar and a melodica. The storyline revolves around a man wanting to prove he still loves his partner many years into their relationship, even though they’ve seemingly grown apart. In Kasher’s world they’re just two weary people, wandering the streets together under the realization that maybe they’re best off together because they won’t find anyone better. “Cold Love” is another bouncy pop song with jangly guitars mixed among the organ and horns, and despite its apparent warmth the title describes it best. In other words it’s a whole lot of fun as Kasher talks about being “tired of this vanilla existence”. One of the most interesting songs on “The Game of Monogamy” is “There Must Be Something I’ve Lost”, in which Kasher tries to figure out where his life went from full of promise to completely marginalized. This exercise mostly involves re-examining his youth and past relationships and delivering such intricacies as “I wanna have sex with all my old girlfriends again/I swear it’s just the familiarity I miss/Aw, fuck it/It’s just typical male conquest/You know the world don’t revolve around your prick/just ask your old girlfriends”. Speaking of sex, “No Fireworks” is all about the lack of them in the bedroom. You may be surprised to learn that not every long-term relationship results in a completely satisfying sex life, so Kasher just reminds us all of that fact (as he does a few times on the album). As if you needed another reason to avoid doing something so “foolish” as to get married. And hey, “The Prodigal Husband” is about cheating on your spouse and the destruction that leads to. To sum it all up, Kasher closes the album with the 5+ minute epic “Monogamy”, which uses a full string section and virtually every instrument in between to tell the tale of a bright young couple. They get married, buy a house, furniture and a dog, lose touch with friends, attend their kids’ sporting events, lose intimacy in the bedroom, get buried underneath a mortgage, and then wonder where all the love went. So nice to end this wildly upbeat record on yet another upbeat note.
For those of you happily married, giving a listen to “The Game of Monogamy” basically tells you just how wrong things might turn out for you down the road. It’s not exactly something you should want to hear, and Tim Kasher isn’t exactly the kind of guy you want to be hearing it from. Just because the guy has so much trouble in his relationships with women doesn’t mean you’ll experience the same things. At the very least though, he’s brutally honest and deals with a reality that so many people don’t want to believe in. The divorce rate is somewhere around 50% these days, and that’s not counting those still trapped in loveless marriages or cheat on their spouses and never get caught/are forgiven. To put the nicest spin possible on this, Kasher is a realist. The thing is, we live in a world that tries so hard to look at the positives, even if watching the news gives us the opposite. And despite all the issues that tend to reveal themselves the longer you’re in a relationship with someone, there’s a distinct lack of focus on the great benefits a long-term partner or marriage can bring you. If we all bought into the hype that this album spreads, most of us would wind up far unhappier with our lives than we are now and largely alone for the majority of it. There’s something to be said for monogamy, and perhaps not listening to this album and its overall pessimism can help you avoid the pitfalls it describes. Should you be bearing the battle scars of love or just are content to call yourself single at the moment, there’s some interesting music on “The Game of Monogamy” you may want to check out. Instrumentally these songs are pretty damn good, and though unpleasant, Kasher’s way with words is second to none. Sometimes it’s fun just to hear the intense details he hands out like candy on Halloween. This certainly isn’t a record for everybody, but if you’re not too uncomfortable with a bit of anti-relationship music, there’s enjoyment to be had. Fair warning though, while you could fall head over heels in love with “The Game of Monogamy” and listen to it intently over and over again, there’s a good chance you’ll become tired of it and eventually cheat on it with another album. Ah well, you weren’t the kind of person that can commit to one record for the rest of your life anyways.