As frontman of the Omaha indie rock outfit Cursive, Tim Kasher & co. released a couple of mediocre records in the past few years and two excellent records earlier in their careers. 2000's Domestica and 2003's The Ugly Organ were both concept albums, imaginatively riffing on clashing, divorcing couples and the commercial music industry, respectively. Kasher's new solo album, The Game of Monogamy, has a concept too, but it's a macho, puerile one -- wanting to fuck around. The Kasher camp is billing the album as "the score for our collective repression in the name of romance," a criticism of "relationships in a starched shirt society," but there's nothing so noble about this record. By Kasher's account, apparently if you're in any kind of faithful relationship, you're just a clueless stuffed shirt missing out on a whole lot of fun.
Worse than this silly narrow perspective, though, is that Kasher seems to have lost the spitting fire and rage he channeled in old Cursive songs like "Art Is Hard" and "Driftwood," replacing it with whiny sentiments like, "I wanna have sex with all my old girlfriends/ I swear it's just the familiarity I miss." He sounds like a hormonal frat boy instead of the 36-year-old man he is. There are times on the record when Kasher nears something like poignancy, like on the milky "Strays," which ditches the rest of the album's overstuffed instrumentation in favor of a toned-down acoustic guitar, or the part in "I'm Afraid I'm Gonna Die Here" when he sings, "The town's bloated with old folks' homes/ When we kick the bucket, who's to really know?" as flutes trill slowly along with his voice. Unfortunately, that's a rare touching moment. As the album winds down, on "The Prodigal Husband," Kasher seems to be asking his wife to take him back, now that he's gone out and had his fun, a request she unsurprisingly seems to be resisting. "I'm a grown man," Kasher sings at one point in the record. Start acting like one then.