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Cass McCombs: Catacombs

Cass McCombs: Catacombs

Release Date:2009
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Cass McCombs

By Michael Byrne | Posted 7/8/2009

Cass McCombs


Such a subtle record, Cass McCombs' fifth effort can pass by as slight as a quiet breeze on first listen. Through all of McCombs' easy and surprisingly welcome John Lennon posturing and tender pop sensibility, Catacombs is as somnolent as anything the ex-Baltimore songwriter has released. Even lead single, the slo-mo shuffle/would-be missing track from the Inland Empire soundtrack, "Dreams Come True Girl," out dreams anything in the Beach House catalog (a serious "see also," along with newcomers the Papercuts).

But, good lord, what a dream it is: Imagine the last song of the night playing at the beach-side cabana when everyone's left but you and your's and, save for a handful of almost expired lanterns, it's dark and there's just enough breeze to feel salt water ever-so-slightly on your neck. Take that scene and soak in a bit of the end-of-the-world, and you're getting there. Also: dig the deliriously surreal cameo of Hollywood-weirdo-about-town Karen Black where it sounds like she's singing through from some other dimension.

There's a few tracks on here that cross deep into Red House Painters' turf--the weird plainsong singing of "The Executioner's Song" in particular--breaching the five-minute mark in reserved twang-pop tracks that feel like they're moving in a space chilled and slowed to about one degree Kelvin. The deeply sublime "Don't Vote" beats with the kind of subcutaneous drama--via little more than a malleted floor tom and slowly stepping bass line--that builds and builds with every listen. "Lionkiller Got Married" feels like a Lennon-led march to the sea and, in the record's final minutes, "Jonesy Boy" sends off a four-minute love letter to "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," not so much resolving the cool, minimal vibes of the record, but more pushing things even more off-kilter, in the best way.

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