Cass McCombs

(Domino Records 2009)Cass McCombs - Catacombs

Cass McCombs has balls. It’s pretty daring, especially in this day and age, where every single song is merely a slot in someone’s iTunes playlist and is marketed as such, to put together an album of down tempo songs. But that’s exactly what McCombs does on his fourth album, “Catacombs.” Sure, there are some moments that could almost be labeled “lively” or “toe-tapping” but for the most part the album has a casual feeling that’s strung loosely together.

McCombs encourages listeners to gather around and take heed. “Dreams Come True Girl” keeps a Roy Orbison-like stride until the end when actress/singer Karen Black (Easy Rider, The Great Gatsby) adds a curiously unnecessary vocal part. In general, the album over all is minimal, folksy and, at times, quirky, all of which make for particularly interesting listening. “The Executioner’s Song” pops and thuds over gentle piano and acoustic guitar with somber vocals and careful melodies. “Eavesdropping On The Competition” sounds like it’s free-falling, bolstered by twangy guitar while the sparse country of “Jonesy Boy” brings a less commercial Ryan Adams to mind.

Some bands thrive on ballads. For other groups, to get a ballad out of them it’s like pulling teeth. Cass McCombs doesn’t really fall comfortably into either category. “Catacombs” is meticulously constructed with textures instead of hooks or riffs. These folksy tunes aren’t ballads, they’re art and you don’t have to be a hipster to “get it.”


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