Review: Cass McCombs’ Low-Key ‘Mangy Love’ Channels Bleak Visions
Cass McCombs has been demonstrating the Talmudic songcraft ambition of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen for more than a decade, quietly accruing fans, including many of his indie peers. His latest shows a low-key master at work, and not in a bubble. "Bum Bum Bum" and "Run Sister Run" engage race and gender issues with a delivery part soapbox, part bar stool, part pillow talk. "Oh, please tell me, you academics/How do you wake up from a non-dream?" he croons on the former, like Elliott Smith negotiating a laconic groove with the Meat Puppets. But McCombs is concerned more with channeling lived emotion than with slinging polemics. "Low Flyin Bird" blends Philly-soul chill with a Grateful Dead vibe that marks much of McCombs' material. On "Medusa's Outhouse," McCombs sings of "music like a crow in the gold sunshine" in an Icarus-flight falsetto, determined to wrest joy from life's stench.