Album: Mangy Love
Label: ANTI- / Indigo
To all music journalists and related parties, and in the interest of brevity, here is a secular summation of what is to follow: Cass McCombs has completed his new record. It is entitled Mangy Love and it is a worthy addition to his egg (or, as the French say, his oeuf). Mangy Love is a succinct and direct record composed of succinct and direct songs that draw influence from such disparate worlds as loose Californian jamming and tight Philadelphian soul. Please feel free to refer to it as "Garcia & Huff” music if you need to lift a catchphrase from this press release to drop into your newspaper article, zine review, or blog post.
And that’s it. You can stop reading now if you’re on a deadline or not used to consuming more than 140 characters at a time. But then again, if you’d like to take the ride with us, please continue.
Just this very April (which is the cruelest month), Cass McCombs revealed to his adherents that he had driven a lawn aerator clean through his foot while innocently tending to his garden. (This is true; it really happened.) Repeated ensuing attempts on our part to liken Cass to Jesus Christ and to portray his impaled foot as an incidence of stigmata have proven fruitless. Yet we, the McCombs faithful, persist in our attempts to find synchronicity between Cass and JC, just as we always have.
On Mangy Love, Cass’s righteous and angry engagement with issues of the spirit continues. Violence, temptation, healing, paradox, the serpent, questing, the power of the female and the contrived duality that men impose upon women, renunciation, homegoing: Such are the thematic concerns that run through Mangy Love like shining threads in a golden fleece. Pieces of everyday mundanity— things like Netflix and Cheez-Whiz—are peppered throughout the record like earthly anchors, bits of the ordinary that serve to highlight the divine concerns that, like a certain hired holy hitman from Nazareth, Cass grapples with so that we don’t have to. Because, really, who wants to? And what does a prophet do if not, ultimately, take one for the team?
There we go, deifying McCombs again. Apologies.
But wait, brothers, sisters, and others. Let’s also talk about Cass’s natural cultivation of fellowship. Mangy Love is a veritable Passover of worthy collaborators. Here we have the saintly voice of Angel Olsen, there we have the subtle congas of Ryan Sawyer. What’s that you hear? It’s the twin Beachwood Sparks of Aaron Sperske and Farmer Dave Scher, and the obscured Lily of Kurt Heasley. And over yonder we’ve found the unmistakable vocals of Phish man Mike Gordon and, hark, the solemn intonation of Rev. Goat Carson, the deeply spiritual brother of legendary screenwriter and actor L.M. Kit Carson (may he rest in peace). Is that the gilded touch of producers Rob Schnapf (helmsman of numerous Elliot Smith gems) and Dan Horne (the lovely Chapin Sisters) steering the ship? Praise Cass, it is so. McCombs casts his records as a director does his films, bringing in players who add not only musical expertise but also magnetic vibrational imprints. Like Snow White with her fauna or, yes, ol’ Jesus with his sheep, a magical mob gathers around Cass. Each track on Mangy
Love is laden with their presences.
How to summarize? Is it a fool’s errand to try encapsulating that which is ongoing? It’s likely that it is. The world of Cass is a continuum, and this momentary milestone is another blip along the way. But know this: Mangy Love, like many great records, is both a salve and a challenge. It will both soothe and disturb. The mood is generally honeyed—dulcet, even—and thrilling in its displays of casually virtuoso musicianship. But the messages? The messages found herein will leave you with questions, and then answers, and then more questions which will spring from those answers. In this way Mangy Love, like Cass, lives both now and forever.
Yours in Faith,
Fr. Jesse Pearson, President
The Apostles of McCombs (Los Angeles Chapter)
Jesse Pearson is the founder and editor of the periodical Apology, creative director at the web and TV studio Super Deluxe, and the former editor-in-chief of Vice.