Cass McCombs

Cass McCombs


It’s Monday night and the Deaf Institute is heaving. In fact, the audience must be double the one that came to see Cass McCombs’ last Deaf Institute show. ‘Mangy Love’, Cass’ most recent record, is a large reason for this swell in the audience. His most concise record to date, ‘Mangy Love’ is the antithesis of his previous album ‘Big Wheel and Others’, a sprawling record that soundtracked the desolation of the American West. It was a great album but far less accessible than ‘Mangy Love’.

Starting with album opener ‘Bum Bum Bum’ it appears that tonight’s Cass is the concise one. It’s a song that strolls with effortless cool, undertowed by a driving bass line. It’s an intro that beds you in, leaving you with the desire to unearth more.

Songs don’t get much better than ‘Opposite House’; its simple beauty manages to transcend the work of most other singer songwriters out there. For the chorus, the drummer and bassist perfectly replicate Angel Olsen’s backing vocals – no easy task – as Cass draws a sway from the crowd with his enchanting “Oh why?” vocal. A shimmering guitar part then allows Cass to somehow better the original track, before that beautiful chorus comes again – hearing it a thousand times wouldn’t be enough.

Now, how to top that? With the featherlight ‘Morning Star’ of course. One of the shorter cuts from ‘Big Wheel,’ this one is anchored by a chiming organ that whistles alongside the plucky guitars. The lyrics may confound when Cass asks “what’s it like to shit in space?” but beauty is often found in the strangest places.

The balcony above me, normally packed with a standing crowd, has now turned into something resembling a hippy commune. The audience are sat down, some with their head on their jackets, basking in the glory of Cass and drifting away to the sounds coming from the stage.

They may want to stand now though, as Cass brings his claws out with the bawdy guitar riff of ‘Big Wheel.’ Here Cass becomes a man’s man with lyrics like, “behind the wheel of a bulldozer is my idea of fun”. I’d be guessing, but I think it’s a song that reveals Cass’ disdain for this unique strain of machoness, the irony best felt in the line “I may be 5 foot 1 but you’re all wet, be a man”.

‘Medusa’s House’ drags us back into that state of perfect somnolence. It is his best vocal of the night and his high notes are enough to impose a state of bliss on the hardiest of souls.

‘County Line’ closes a wonderful evening with aplomb. The standout hit from Cass’ fifth album ‘Wits End’, ‘County Line’ is a slow waltz that sees friends stretch their arms around one another and hands held aloft.

Such is Cass’ success in drawing us into his time zone that we’re surprised when tonight ends. We’ve all been sent into a haze and it’s one we could have stayed in a while longer. Indeed, being somewhere else has never felt as good as it does in 2017.

Cass McCombs  Official | Facebook | Twitter

Paddy Kinsella

Hi all, my name is Paddy and I have a love for everything from African music to indie to house (basically anything other than heavy metal). Gigging and listening to albums are genuinely the things I most value and love doing.