Cass McCombs-A

April 25, 2012

Cass McCombs

A (Monitor 2003)

http://www.mediafire.com/?m5vlzvrbccrtvds

On the surface, the tottering building blocks that lay the groundwork for Cass McCombs’ debut album seem all too predictable and safe for an indie-rock album circa 2003. The Velvet Underground, 4ad, Robyn Hitchcock and Syd Barrett spring to mind upon a cursory cruise through its eleven tracks. However, they years have slowly prodded me deeper and deeper into this lonely, lackadaisical and deceptively lush album and come to the conclusion that A is so much more than the sum of an easily solved equation. In fact, it might actually wind up being cited as a seminal influence all its own once the dust settles after his long and lonesome career is complete.

Many great artists are able to conceptualize their own insular universe over the course of an album. The Stooges inspire dread and nihilistic abandon. My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless embedded you in the middle of a kaleidoscope of feedback. Michael Hurley whisks you off to a crowded campfire where the bottles are quickly drained and the bowl is slowly passed. Cass McCombs’ A isn’t quite a card carrying member of that hallowed crew, but it does inspire a lonely and lost vibe that makes you want to wear pajamas and draw the blinds on the sunniest of days. However, there is a sunny undercurrent that drags it above a self-destructive slog through the depths of depression. It’s one of the first things I reach for on those days where life should go absolutely nowhere for an hour and my hectic existence reaches a much needed standstill. It achieves stasis as it balances majesty and melancholy perfectly on the scales of my mind.

Supposedly recorded after a long, protracted nomadic existence spent bouncing from city to city and couch to couch culminating in a Greyhound bus retreat to a home base of San Francisco, A definitely feels like the work of a restless soul in search of anything that could possibly become familiar someday. “Gee, It’s Good to Be Back Home” is alternately sentimental and sarcastic about his travails as he sweetly sings of how it’s wonderful to be around old friends, but offers up the half-hearted description of his home as a place where you “don’t sleep, don’t eat and don’t drink the foam” as a sad acceptance of the futility of this dark place and the excess it entails.

His detached, kind of downtrodden sarcasm and bitterness raises its weathered and weary head again on “AIDS in Africa” where he paints a landscape where cancer and AIDS decimate the ranks of our beloved while folks praise a benevolent creator who utilizes these tragedies as part of some divine plan. The effect is multiplied by its reliance upon a wheezing, jittery church organ and angelic harmonies, but the message is succinct and decries all who ignore the misery around them and build cocoons in which their minds slumber until eternity calls their inevitable number.

“I Went to the Hospital” captures the transient nature of his life as he ponders the fragility of it all when you face your mortality. He talks of a bout with illness and embarks on a narrative detailing all of the thoughts we all have when the unknown looms large and casts shadow puppets of our regrets and missteps upon the walls of our examination room. It is a meditation on mortality and straddles the line between paranoia and confessional, but that wash of organ and gently jangling chords make it seem like a gentle jaunt once you soak in it a few times.

Ultimately, A is an album full of dread about what has already happened and what may come. He puts on a straight face and conjures a narcotic and dazed aura around each song, but dig beneath the surface and there are countless ghosts that haunt every track. A puts on a brave face, but the fractures reveal themselves with time and make it one of those albums that you listen to when you want to enshroud yourself in defense of your own woes.

Moose-Sonny and Sam

August 27, 2008

Moose

Sonny and Sam(Virgin 1992)

http://www.mediafire.com/?nizl3ybht94

During my teenage years, I became obsessed with shoegaze and faithfully trekked to Philadelphia’s 3rd St. jazz and Rock to pick up any ep or cd remotely associated with this poorly named genre. I’m not trying to come off as some precocious wisenheimer since I also purchased albums by 24-7 Spyz, Hoodoo Gurus and 3rd Bass. However, I heard a track from My Bloody Valentine’s Isn’t Anything on WKDU and spent by bicycle messenger salary on every NME, Sounds and Melody Maker to search out similar sounds. Through these delightful and sometimes ridiculous rags, I fell in love with Slowdive, Swervedriver, Lush and other bands that adopted MBV as an influence and spun it in their own kaleidoscope of feedback and buried melodies. These three acts among others achieved relative success and are still fondly remembered by fans today. However, there were many worthwhile bands that fell through the cracks or lost their bearings after a brilliant single or ep. England’s Moose definitely fell into the latter category even though they released a few albums afterwards.

Sonny and Sam collected tracks from their first two eps and added a couple odds and ends in the hopes of attracting an American audience. It’s a pretty concise summation of what made them stick out from their peers. Moose’s music adhered to the shoegaze blueprint, but there was something tender and habitually heartbroken about their music that set them apart as the sad sacks of the scene. That’s why I loved them since their romantic odes to butterfly collectors and a lover’s morning gaze appealed to the maudlin side of me. Plus, they knew when to turn off the spigots of feedback and toss in a minimal ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place on Sarah or Creation records. They had some diversity and their music wasn’t constantly drugged and distant. Moose wanted to be loved and wallow in noise as well as their alienation and woe. Now, their later albums focused more on the alienation and woe instead of noise and that made them less interesting. Sonny and Sam captures a moment when they didn’t know whether they wanted to be a brit-pop band or something more ragged and intriguing.

Disco Inferno

D.I. Go Pop (1994 Rough Trade)

http://www.divshare.com/download/4814230-e35

If I had to compile a list of my favorite albums of the 90s, D.I. Go Pop would be near the top. Their earlier eps and the Open Doors, Closed Windows lp were full of bleak, gothic post-punk that owed much to Joy Division, New Order’s Movement and the 4ad roster. It was derivative to be sure, but they experimented and expanded upon the work of their influences to create something entirely their own. However, none of this prepared me for the fucked up, sad and brilliant direction they took on D.I Go Pop.

D.I. Go Pop was released a year after Seefeel’s Quique and both share some parallels. Where Seefeel used My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and shoegaze as a launching pad for their love of electronics and dub, Disco Inferno’s discovery of the MIDI sampler enabled them to create a wholly unique and groundbreaking sound. Quique was a throbbing, sexual drone that is warm and inviting while D.I. Go Pop is a dark, alienating album that approximates the depression and loneliness of Ian Curtis’ suicidal worldview. The difference between the two bands is that Disco Inferno blew apart their love of Factory and 4ad into a million pieces and reassembled them in a way that still sounds new today.

Their usage of the MIDI sampler pervades the record and guitarist/vocalist Ian Crause even hooked up each individual string to its own sampler. This triggers a kaleidoscope of effects that are downright disorienting at times, but they complement Crause’s bitter songs of estrangement and loss. If you removed these electronic effects, D.I. Go Pop is just like the rest of their output. The fan in me wants to know what music, person or life event influenced them to incorporate electronics into their music because it made the difference between a good album and a classic. Anyway you slice it, D.I. Go Pop still sounds as alien as it did fourteen years ago.