Cass McCombs

Mangy Love

In a time of pre-election bliss when the presidency of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was but a hissing whisper in the night, the ever elusive songwriter Cass McCombs released Mangy Love, a socio-politically charged collection of acoustically nomadic tracks.

By means of poetic and contemplative lyrics, McCombs offers a narrative on the many choleras that plague modern-day American society (although many of these extend to modern society in general).

The first track on the album, “Bum Bum Bum,” is the most explicit on the matters of racism and bigotry, which are cleverly depicted in both literal and allegorical terms: “The white dog of the farm still breeds/ She’s off her leash/ To tear flesh and teach.” 

Gender inequality, another biggie, is featured in “Run Sister Run.” However, where “Bum Bum Bum” leaves a rather pessimistic note hanging in the air, “Run Sister Run” ends with some blatantly positive backing from Cass himself: “My sister’s a Queen, she ain’t no concubine/ Don’t call my sister no concubine, she is the Mother of Creation.”

Confronting some heavy Americana content proves to be no challenge for McCombs, who maintains a consistent low-key sound despite wandering stylistically throughout the entire album.  

Although he is known for his song-writing, the instrumental aspect of Mangy Love is done no less skillfully. While soft electric guitar is the backbone linking many of the tracks, expect to hear a broad and somewhat eclectic range of sounds – piano, sax, and heck, even some operatic chanting (“It”). 

In much of the album he stays close to his folky roots, as is the case in “Opposite House,” and “Medusa’s Outhouse,” while brushing the psychedelic front in “Low Flyin’ Bird” and “Cry.” Listen for the subtle melange of Van Morrison-esque groovy flute and reggae in “Laughter Is The Best Medicine,” and a very (muted) 80’s guitar riff in “In A Chinese Alley.”

If you are someone who would not have voted for Trump (oops, I means, You-Know-Who) then you need to listen to this album.

-Margaret Banka

Published in Volume 71, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 17, 2016)

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