A sign of the times
As its name suggests, Vitriola by Cursive is a seething, angry response to societal ills perceived by the band. The album is loaded with social commentary on capitalism and consumer culture, governance and the currently hyper-politicized state of American society.
Musically, Vitriola is consistently heavy–though a few songs serve to occasionally change up the pace and dynamic of the record–and it is littered with hard rock riffs, aggressive and emotional vocals and chugging, palm-muted power chords. Some songs feel redundant and formulaic, but there are plenty of standout moments as well. “Under The Rainbow” deploys one of the album’s simplest–and catchiest–riffs, and “It’s Gonna Hurt,” which showcases Cursive’s emo and pop-punk influences, masterfully blends a dark and heavy rock sound that arguably verges on metal with a violin, creating a unique sound that stands out among the crowded crop of modern indie rock albums.
Listeners may come for the heavy riffs and raw, authentic vocals, but they will stay for the lyrical content. Cursive has a lot to say, and they instantly grab the listener’s attention, refusing to let go until the final note of the album decays.
“Under The Rainbow” prominently introduces the album’s dystopian theme, by twisting the typically uplifting imagery of being under a rainbow into a much darker picture. “We’ve been left all alone, under the rainbow,” laments the narrator.
“Ouroboros” is the band’s most unapologetic takedown of what they believe is wrong with the world. They don’t mince words from the jump, with the opening line “I am a parasite / I am a shill,” giving the listener a taste of what’s to come. “The voice of man has been exposed as vitriol,” screams vocalist Tim Kasher after carefully explaining how corporations and the internet have contributed to society’s downward spiral.
Later, the band tackles money and consumerism in “Life Savings.” The narrator argues that money is a destructive force on human society that cripples everyone, eventually turning us into slaves to currency and reducing humans to price tags. “Money buys a bright future / But we will be forever indentured,” sings Kasher in the chorus. “The more you comply is the more you subsist.”
In the final track of Vitriola, Cursive goes completely nihilistic. The narrator confesses that he “used to fall for hope” and “used to fall for change,” but has since become hardened and jaded. His optimism and enthusiasm is replaced with sadness and anger, but perhaps more tragically, indifference. “Now I fall in line,” Kasher sings in the outro to “Noble Soldier / Dystopian Lament.”
The album’s message is unmistakable, and although it’s a bit clumsy and heavy-handed at times, the anger and passion behind the lyrics give it a certain charm and sincerity. Emo and hardcore fans will find a home in Vitriola, and listeners will be forced to ponder the points raised in these songs long after the music stops.