I sat on the edge of a long bench inside a dugout wearing the world’s cleanest baseball uniform. The smell of burning cigarettes, impatience, and popcorn swirled around as the husky back-up catcher with a big mouth yelled at teammates. Game after game, all those great plays I’d made during practice or in my imagination didn’t mean much as I sat on that bench. I just never found my footing with organized sports and found much more joy in pick-up games where nothing was at stake and there was room for the chaos of a dog stealing our baseball.

Cass McCombs feels like such a kindred spirit in that respect.

c81bc31799fc344c9e57399a1551ccaeHis songs nearly always rambling off the expected route. On his latest album Mangy Love (released in August on Anti Records) the collaborations from artists such as Angle Olsen on “Opposite House” and perfect spoken word by outsider poet/musician/medicine man Reverend Goat Carson on “Laughter Is The Best Medicine” feel much more like a casual meeting among friends than a forced mash up of highly structured ideas. That easy and casual feel resonates throughout this album which will be familiar to existing fans, but possibly jarring to folks who are new to Cass McCombs’s beautifully unconventional body of work.

Mangy Love is a collection of songs that feel as if you’ve sat down across from the artist over roadside diner coffee to discuss topics ranging from murder to politics.

It’s a smudged window into the mind of Cass McCombs. Where 2013’s brilliant Big Wheel and Others double album was an odyssey, Mangy Love is a short, yet slowly wandering road trip. Lyrically, McCombs puts so many small details into each song that a listener may find themselves hitting rewind on a song like “Opposite House” and saying, “Did he just explain how to make a refrigerator magnet?” The layers upon layers of small intricacies allows for the album to unfold over time versus the instant satisfaction of toothpaste commercial ready pop music.

McCombs navigates harder topics such as police brutality on “Bum Bum Bum” with lyrics that may instantly bring to mind what we see on television news seemingly daily and a feeling of hopelessness felt by many. Party rock it’s not, but there’s a need for less “White Bread Artists” in this world. Allow the high falsetto and spoken word challenge “If it’s so easy, you try it” in the song “Medusa’s Outhouse” to slow dance you through the world of Cass McCombs. Warning, the view may not always be pretty as shown in the video for “Medusa’s Outhouse” which takes place on the set of a porn shoot.  However, there’s a need for music that tells the story of the harder side of life.

McCombs accomplishes that and more in a humorous and interesting way on Mangy Love.

 

Rating: 4/5

Pick up a copy at your local independent record store or HERE

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