CASS McCOMBS

cass mccombsCASS McCOMBS – ‘Big Wheel and Others’
Alright, so this is one of last years most lauded releases.  Nomadic American singer-songwriter Cass McCombs’ seventh LP made many an end of year list and if you’re yet to wrap your ears around its Alt-Folk tinkerings, you might wanna take notice.  At 22 tracks long there’s ambition on display if nothing else.  Conversely there’s also some indistinctive filler, which makes consistant play through a chore.  But don’t panic if you don’t get Big Wheel and Others first time round, it may take a few spins.  I know thats a tired old journalist cliche that’s often trotted out when someone can’t be bothered with the task at hand, but it’s true in this case.  And so the questions accumulated as a late copy quietly soundtracked our hangover strewn festive period.  Why are there so many samey tracks? Why does it seem to go on and on, and on?  Why haven’t the choruses stuck in my brain?  In short, what is all the frikkin fuss about?  There are answers to most if not all of those questions…so long as you’re willing to persevere with the bugger.  Four or five listens should probably do the trick, so be prepared to hit ‘repeat’ and let’s get on with it…McCombs rarely hams it up or gets beyond a disgruntled speak-sing persona, so look elsewhere if you need a pick-me-up.  But he milks the punchy Beck-esque title track of every last ounce of commerciality; ensuring it stands tall.  ‘Angel Blood’ and ‘Morning Star’ are apologetic country hymns for Sunday worship, while ‘The Burning Of The Temple, 2012’ and ‘Brighter’ are easy going, hazy affairs with jazzy grooves littered with late night tears.  It’s on ‘There Can Be Only One’ where McCombs really hits his stride, aside the title track it’s a real bouncy, bass heavy bopper if ever there was one. Instrumental ‘It Means A Lot To Know You Care’ adds an interlude that’s no less classy before ‘Sooner Cheat Death Than Fool Love’ and ‘Satan Is My Toy’ see McCombs stretching out as close to exciteable as you’re ever likley to hear.  Unfortunately marks are deducted for an over abundance of filler, deserving of nothing more than the pile marked ‘uneventful’.  But the guitar work is commendable and the arrangements a perfect accompaniment to his lo-fi country musings.  And while Big Wheel doesn’t exactly stand out like an island in a sea of mediocrity destined to lighten the mood, come the close it matters not, he’s already won the fight on points.  (7)
STEVE FLETCHER

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