Cass McCombs - Big Wheel And Others

Not without its merits but fundamentally too long.

Label: Domino


‘Big Wheel And Others’ is the seventh full-length album from the nomadic Cass McCombs, a double-album comprising 22 tracks and clocking in at a combined running time of 85 minutes. The cult singer songwriter skips effortlessly through folk, country, blues, ballads and jazz with his trademark wit. Despite such stylistic diversity this is a collection of songs firmly entrenched in melancholy which is why ‘Satan Is My Toy’ is such a jolt to the system, pairing an intoxicating funk groove that comes on like a streamlined Primal Scream jamming with Kasabian. Evidence of McCombs’ clever way with words is plentiful, evidenced in the shotgun opening to ‘Morning Star’ where he declares ‘leave your husband and come with me’ and his proclamation that ‘love is not a power as the poet says’ on ‘Sooner Cheat Death Than Fool Love’. At times this draws the listener’s attention back when it threatens to wander but not without fail.

For some reason we get two versions of ‘Brighter’, one of which features recently deceased actress Karen Black whose voice wraps her way around the lyrics to give them an emotional resonance lacking from its somewhat plodding counterpart. Better still are ‘Angel Blood’, a delicate love song complete with the kind of vintage retro slide guar sounds that Richard Hawley would trade multiple body parts for and the freewheeling country blues trucker stomp of ‘Big Wheel’.

This latest effort is not without its merits but is fundamentally too long, whilst its interludes are a cheap, unnecessary annoyance. The predominantly spoken rather than sung ‘Everything Has To Be Just So’ should have been left on the cutting room floor, an arty experimental piece that clumsily picks up the theme of racial narrow-mindedness over what sounds like an in-studio jam session. The aimlessly meandering ‘The Burning Of The Temple 2012’, just another culprit of a distinct lack of quality control which handicaps what could have been a triumphant return.

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