"Return of the CURM" Reaches for Absurdity
Article by Alex Patton
Atlanta-based rapper Michael Arcuri keeps himself busy in the local DIY community, organizing and promoting concert bills and constantly performing at open mics and local shows as CURM. He even co-produced the world-domination simulator card game “Supreme Leader” this year, on top of two EP’s and a new LP. With the release of his sophomore effort, RETURN of the CURM, Arcuri doubles down and expands on his personal brand of ironic bravado and nerdy pop-culture references.
Clear and confident lyrics maintain a politically-charged message but often revert to tongue-in-cheek “bitches and bling-style” boasting, putting anti-capitalist rhetoric at odds with paper-stacking braggadocio. But it’s all in good fun even in these instances, with tracks like “Death by Handgun” weaving exaggerated gunshots with a fake newscast as Arcuri’s aggressive CURM character takes on consumerism, political and religious authorities, and of course, inferior rappers. CURM’s no gangster though, balancing bank heists with allusions to Bruce Lee and Futurama.
Instrumental production drives the album with a boom-bap style evidently inspired by Wu-Tang Clan and ‘90s Eminem, mostly outsourced to a handful of featured producers. NOTHINGISREAL and NOSLENtk’s head-bobbing ditties aren’t exactly crafted for danceability so much as thematic texture, with traditional percussive beats rounded out by layered synth and piano samples. Kinetic tracks like “Freezer Flows” and “Salvation” carry an upbeat vibe, but the production really shines in its subdued moments, like the spacey, vibraphone-like accompaniment on Christian Munro’s “Straight to Hell.”
The album wraps up with “24 FEAT Christian Munro,” the sole track produced by Brett Ryan, who also produced most of CURM’s debut LP, Illusions of Power. The song ties the themes of the album in a bow, with heavy personal boasting and explicit condemnation of right-wing political figures by name. Arcuri’s sense of humor peaks at this point, wrapping up the album with a self-aware eruption of laughter. It’s a welcome relief from the aggression, but leaves a desire for an escalation of absurdity that CURM appears hesitant but more than capable of unleashing.
Critical listeners will find little subtlety in RETURN of the CURM, but the release displays a marked growth in Arcuri’s artistic confidence from his previous work. With tighter thematic focus and lyrical complexity, the album hints at creative absurdity that could be expanded further in a future release. Here’s hoping it’ll be called REVENGE of the CURM.
Listen to RETURN of the CURM on Soundcloud.
Album art: Gerell Brown (IG: @bonesofburied)