Buy takes us through an unsettling tale of a drunk and his eternally suffering wife.

The chamber like ‘Buried Alive’ continues that mood and contains a nod early 2000’s ode to the French duo, Air with its pulse like interludes among McCombs simple chord structures and deadpan vibrato. The piano bar like simplicity of ‘Saturday Song’ with its repetitive ebbing piano chord could almost have you transporting yourself to atop a swish New York hotel only to find a dose of honesty present rather than the usual flakes and fakes.

The second half of the album begins with the carousel yet funereal like, ‘Memory’s Stain’, with McCombs trembling voice and the instrumentation of harpsicord and baritone clarinet being utilised to great hypnotic effect across the tracks second half ushering itself carefully to its conclusion. You get the feeling that something’s gone very wrong somewhere when the quick two step on the initially childlike ‘Hermit’s Cave’ is rudely interrupted by a repeated loud hit of the snare, sounding almost like a gun shots. Repeated listens will reveal its appropriateness.

 ‘Pleasant Shadow Song’ continues McCombs penchant for circular chord structures as guitar wraps around his vocals, intertwining one another in perfect symmetry. The final song, ‘A Knock Upon The Door’ is a ragtime waltz that runs just shy of ten minutes uses woodwinds and brass to full effect as a relentless bell is struck throughout. McCombs sets up the story of an would-be artist who would sell his soul and his muse, that is his creativity, to the highest bidder as he awaits that knock upon the door.

While McCombs borrows heavily from traditional structures in a music sense on Wit’s End he nevertheless has created something that renders them something only he in his uniqueness could produce. It sees him keeping company with the lineage of great songwriters; Cohen, Drake, Taylor and Smith, such is the fullness that marks this album. McCombs remarked in a rare written ‘interview’ recently that he wrote the album for those who are already on board and he congratulated Domino, his label since 2007, ‘for having his back’. And there is a very real danger that some may not come with him on this one, such is the sparse change in direction. But such independence of mind are what distinguished and distinguishes the careers of the aforementioned quartet. While I might be castigated for throwing McCombs in with these luminaries, I too care little for what others, who don’t get it or can’t appreciate the fundamentally important contributions being made in music today, may think.

James Stocker – June 3, 2011.


Memory’s Stain

Cass McCombs (USA)
From the album, ‘Wit’s End’, Domino.

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