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Rhythm & Views

Cursive

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Happy Hollow, like Cursive's previous records, centers on a theme: This time, it's a small middle-America town and its related myths. "We're not in dreamland anymore," sings Tim Kasher on "Dorothy at Forty," "Dorothy wake up, it's time for work."

Horns and guitars scream, and Kasher's rhetorical questions sting ("Flag and Family" asks, "When you're down on your knees, are you praying for holy war?"); Happy Hollow is Cursive at their smartest.

The lyrics reveal the hypocrisy behind religious fundamentalism and small-town idealism, and the music turns traditional classic rock techniques on their head with electronic flourishes and sudden switches to jazz. "Bad Sects" uses microbeats and clouds of electric guitar noise as Kasher sings in a high whisper, "I know this is wrong 'cause we're told this is wrong." "At Conception" tells the story of Father Cole and pregnant Jeannie--"What happens in confession stays in confession"--to the tune of a bouncy melody, and the rock stomp of "Bad Science" leads into the calmer introspection of "Into the Fold." "This city's killing us," cries Kasher on "Dorothy Dreams of Tornadoes," and by the end, "Hymns for the Heathen" mixes playful recounting of the songs on the record with heavy metal drama and a bell toll, an "afterward" to the "green grass of envy and malice of salad days living in Happy Hollow."

These 14 "hymns for the heathens" are novel-like in their depth, reflection and ambiguity.

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