Words By: Drew Krapljanov
“Cass McCombs?” I ask myself upon reading the Rotunda Media Facebook group post inquiring if anybody would like to do a write up on the new Cass McCombs album. Enthusiastically yet begrudgingly, possibly but probably due to my motives for writing up the piece being more self gratifying and ego driven than selfless and generous, I express my interest.
I apologise to you dear reader in advance for my ignorance. Yes, you, the Cass McCombs fan highly informed to his expansive back catalog of eclectic releases or oblivious newcomer just like myself who would preferably like the function of this review to give you just enough of a summarised history of the obscure alternative artist to bring you up to speed and understand this album both by itself and with the context of his work.
Ultimately, the function of this review is to answer the important question that is throbbing in your mind like the itch of a tangy coat of sweat; “Well, should I give this a listen or not because look I don’t have a lot of time right now”. To that question I can answer sure why not? ‘Mangy Love’ is playful but in a soft, experimental, matured demeanour yet depressing; its subject matter thankfully not expressing a romanticised lens.
‘Mangy Love’ is less an album title and more of an unassuming prelude, revealing a glimpse of itself piece by piece, song by song. Discreet is the creeping word that comes to mind. Each song on the album touches upon different blemishes of the human experience with McCombs being our obtuse yet candid guide.
We find ourselves staring at the mould on the ceiling in a misty house of mellotrons and ghostly guitars on ‘Opposite House’, where it “rains inside and there is nowhere to hide”. Soft, propelling drums tap away like a dripping faucet and anxiety not dripping from the ceiling but unavoidably pouring from within. We are caught in the middle of two people tearing each other apart with cruel observations and judgements on the infectious disco studded ‘Cry’ and we pause to admire a bird passing us by in the sky, empathising with the feathered being’s own plights and becoming more aware of our own on the floating acoustic buzz of ‘Low Flyin’ Bird’
McCombs does not want us to solely focus on the different hues of being but compels us to look outward. From issues of racism eloquently conveyed on the chilling ‘Bum Bum Bum’ that marches like a stumbling heartbeat with swooning electric guitars, to issues of sexism affecting the many different cultures, creative industries and walks of life portrayed in ‘Run Sister Run’.
Through these charmingly crafted and refined genre hopping vignettes, ‘Mangy Love’ is not only deceivingly cohesive but intriguingly enigmatic and somehow Cass McCombs still manages to sneak a wry smile in the corner of his mouth at some of his most morbid, candid and intimate moments.
Cass McCombs plays the Rosemount Hotel on the 4th of December, tickets here.