Review: Criteria

“En Garde”
(Initial Records)

Stephen Pedersen is a little pissed off. He has a great track record with bands (Cursive and White Octave), but a sour break up with Cursive is showing its head on En Garde. Quick history lesson: Pedersen was a founding member of Cursive and played on everything until their 1998 split when Tim
Kasher got married and moved away. Pedersen enrolled at Duke University’s law school. The twist is that after Pedersen enrolled, Kasher got divorced, started up Cursive again and forgot to invite Pedersen. Now Cursive is receiving a load of acclaim and Pedersen is on the sidelines fuming. I would be to.

So instead of getting blood on his hands, he holes up in a basement and writes and writes and writes. En Garde is what came out of that basement. The disc is a solid out pouring of one guy’s heart for 10 songs
straight. On It Happens, Stephen sings “I started a band that can’t break up ’cause it’s down to one man… I know I’m second string in this town and I’m fine with it. I’m down in the basement trying to make shit up.” Hard to miss the influence of those lyrics. On ‘Thorn Sharp’, Pedersen says “I’m ready for you to be here today… You’re breaking my heart so be here today.” I may be a sucker for emotional lyrics, but simple lines like that coming from a voice like Pedersen’s turns something in my ear. The rest of the track floats along like an indie Irish ballad.

Maybe the third band’s the charm. Pedersen has hit his stride with Criteria. Another twist to the story is the Cursive/Criteria tour. It will either be like old friends who buried the hatchet or bitter ex-wives forced to sit in the same room. Either way, go for Criteria and stay for Cursive.