“A misnomer about The Ugly Organ is how heavily conceptualized it is,” says Cursive’s Tim Kasher. The band’s third studio album, Domestica, was a concept album that chronicled a dissolving relationship, so it was easy to assume the band’s full-length follow-up would be similarly weighted. “We’ve always insisted that it’s merely thematic, both lyrically and musically. Thus, the lyrical thread of the ‘ugly organist.’ Thus, the cello. If the difference between ‘conceptualized’ and ‘thematic’ seems like splitting hairs, well, blame the self-important writer (me, ha ha) for insisting on such a distinction,” Kasher continues.
Yet, it’s Cursive’s adherence to these themes that make parts of The Ugly Organ–sthe carnival noise album opener “The Ugly Organist” and the brief, quasi character introduction “Herald! Frankenstein,” for instance–almost serve as misdirection. But, at its core, the album has always been about artistic creation, something The Ugly Organ (Deluxe Edition) [Remastered] illuminates in all its parenthetical glory. Included as part of the reissue are eight songs recorded during the same sessions and released on singles and a split EP with Eastern Youth, but Kasher contends all of these songs had a place on the album, but slowly fell out of step as the recording process continued.
“It’s a bit of a treat for us to release this edition of The Ugly Organ, as some of these songs could have been, and perhaps should have been on the original record. Thematically, nearly all of them seem to fit, and since we weren’t constricted to a higher concept, well, many of them were fair game. Therein lies the precious songwriter’s distinction,” writes Kasher. This expanded edition ties up all of the album’s loose ends, not just with the eight additional tracks, but with expanded liner notes, an introduction from former A.V. Club managing editor Kyle Ryan, and an exhaustive list of the band’s tour dates surrounding the album, all of which add context to the album’s larger theme.
“Anyway. ‘Conceptualized,’ ‘thematic’–I suppose it’s only as important as how it’s perceived by you,” Kasher relents, acknowledging that part of The Ugly Organ’s legacy is the fact it has its own cult of personality surrounding it. “The Ugly Organ fully took on a life of its own, leaving us awestruck and humbled. Thanks for checking it out back then, over the years, and now,” Kasher closes. The A.V. Club is streaming all of The Ugly Organ (Deluxe Edition) [Remastered] below, allowing for both a look back at Cursive’s fourth album and some new insight into its overarching theme.