ARTICLE NATASHA STAGG
PHOTOGRAPHY PONY CASSELLS
With his newest release, Cass McCombs reminds us that the best way to write a song as is to write a fucking song. "Love is either / all or none," he sings on "There Can Be Only One"—released August 21st—and the same can be said of his music. In his ten years of music-making, McCombs has never been tempted by the easy ways out found in the minimal, the experimental, the scuzzing up of a tried and true tradition. His songs are full, sad, funny, humble, and polished, while they source from psychedelic roots. And yet, albums as traditional as 2011's Wit's End and Humor Risk are hard to pin, with their catchy studio levels and crystal clear barn-raising guitar hooks.
What is McCombs? Alt-country? It's hard to keep up with labels suggested for the most classic of musicians these days, since he does the unheard of and follows in the footsteps of the obvious but perhaps lately overlooked choices: Bob Dylan, Lindsay Buckingham and Marc Bolan (but he holds back instead of belting out, and that hesitancy is what forces you to put the album on repeat, to try again to get a better listen). By the way, McCombs never has kept a label long, popular in a California pop-garage scene, an up-north heavily-blissed crowd, a singer-songwriter festival circuit, and basically any iteration of indie rock you can name. That's why we know the next song (and the next and the next)—like "There Can Only Be One," above, which is on the soon to be released Big Wheel And Others (Domino Records, October 14th)—will be entirely new, in every sense of the word, and it will feel like we've been listening to it our whole lives.