CASS MCCOMBS Wit’s End (Domino)

I don’t know who Cass McCombs is. I am a virgin to his music. Proper research (Google) shows the indefinable singer-songwriter being a publicity hermit and a nomad. What madness is this? Critically acclaimed musicians are supposed to be loud and live in mansions.

We are afforded glimpses into McCombs’s life with his latest effort, Wit’s End. An 8-track album of miserable lullabies with psych-rock and folk influences.

Don’t jump on the “McCombs’s-a-genius” wagon, I tell myself after glancing through reviews praising his work. And then I listened to the opening track, County Line.

County Line is so popular that Google suggests it before the album itself. Its mellow nature destined for slow dances between lovers. McCombs croons with the sincerity of Jeff Buckley and the tenderness of Smoky Robinson. God knows the potential baby making power of the track just by its sensual and delicate reverb.

In The Lonely Doll, McCombs offers a “tribute to all things petite, pretty and sweet”. We get line after line of surreal recollections about a doll.

The track Buried Alive is a standout. You’d expect a song of such title to resemble its title’s severity but McCombs mischievously invokes a suburban normalcy to the situation. He’s like, “Meh…oh well” and nonchalantly sings about metaphysical issues and  neighbouring corpses who stink.

The sombre and hypnotic Saturday Song is as detached as any song about the happy weekends can ever get (must resist Rebecca Black puns). Memory Stain rises and fall in Victorian pianos while the Pleasant Shadow Song is both pleasant and “shadow-ishly” melancholic. One point for accurate song title.

The album ends with A Knock Upon The Door; where a wronged McCombs waits for apologies from naysayers and ex-lovers. The old-fashioned 9-minute track gently rocks back and forth on a moody sea.

McCombs’s nomadic lifestyle clearly adds to the weary traveller’s wisdom of Wit’s End. You wander through every turn of melody and line; discovering moods of old and new. The surrealist lyrics glint with Loki-esque mischief and is held by melodic gems that withstand slow repetition.

You won’t destroy the repeat button for Wit’s End but it is mysteriously endearing. When newspapers and airwaves are dominated by the fame-hungry, you can’t help to not be drawn to those who aren’t. Particularly the ones where the only way for us to know them, is through their music.

(Hydar Saharudin)

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