Saturday, September 17, 2005

(Review) Cass McCombs - Prefection LP

This is the second LP by Cass McCombs, one of the few decent discoveries 4ad have made in the last 10 years. From what I can understand , they appear to have a revolving lineup around Cass, depending on who is around and who he needs. The First LP and EP were just him and his producer playing drums, it was a sweet, whimsical, slightly crazy treat, but for album number two , there is a line-up settled on with a keyboardist, drummer and bassist/sampler, adding to his gtr. Beyond that description, it's hard to know where to start as the band seem to inhabit their own charming little world, knicking an influence here and a germ of an idea there, but seem to sound unlike anybody else.

The albums 10 tracks loosely fall into the American gtr band niche, being slightly Americana-esque, but it's the band's ability to warp a well-worn form subtly to suit their own designs that makes this ablum great. This and the fact that Cass not only possesses a most idyosyncratic style of song writing, with some wonderfully absurd lyrics and what can only be described as a beguiling voice in that it's hard to decide whether he can sing or not, until you realise he can because he will suddenly soar at the end of a line, make this album an absolute delight, which is a rare thing in this era of homogenisation.

Take 'Subtraction', imagine the rhythmic bass to Billy Joel's Uptown Girl' with a wonderful ascending organ over the top, rock n roll drums and a curious vocal arrangement, with absolutely no effort made to rhyme anything, or to even have similar length lines following one another. Suddenly he's high up the register Doo Wopping and the next talking to a human skull about how he can feel it's pull.

'Multiple Suns' finds the pace slowing and a spindly fazed gtr effect draped over the nagging bass-line, the vocals fitting a little better into the framework, but still odd and full of arcane references. Suicide style gtr and organ propel ' Tourist Woman'. I'm not going to bother quoting any of the lyrics because taken out of context they maken even less sense. Cass is obviously doing a lot of thinking, it's a little skewed, but hugely entertaining and his voice is a charming instrument. You remember the middle of 'You Made Me Realise' by MBV when Kevin Shields is trying to jam as many words as he can in while the song vanishes down hill, well this LP is a little like that. Sometimes though you think, they could be on a 80's trip, 'Sacred Heart' chiming like an Orange Juice number, but to be honest 'Bury Mary' could have come off the VU's LP Loaded with it's shimmer and pace, but it appears to be about burying all vestiges of somebody under the kitchen.

After all this, the penultimate track 'City of Brotherly Love' is just wonderful, with mention of Plato, some Latin and the audacious line 'Welly Welly Well'. It's patient guitar and swirling background effects, the voice sounding a little tired but getting pushed up hill at the end of each line. I just can't pinpoint the voice, maybe a little Julian Casablancas, but with more character, huge charm and slightly more nasal.

The more I listen to this, the better it gets and I can't recommend it enough. They would be a fascinating prospect live but for now make do with this.

By Mr Olivetti

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