Cass McCombs

Mangy Love

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

Mangy Love marks the eighth long-player for Cass McCombs, who, fans will be happy to hear, continues to hold form as a refreshing renegade on his game. The singer/songwriter takes on the messiness of life including timely sociopolitical topics, with grooving accompaniment that makes it go down breezily. Along the way, he dips into psychedelia, reggae, Baroque pop, funk, and more. Compared to the mercurial 22-track set that was 2013's Big Wheel and Others, Mangy Love sounds focused and determined, even given a certain amount of style sampling. The album kicks off with "Bum Bum Bum," a '70s soft rock stroller that comments on the military-industrial complex and its enablers, including the drumming pun "bum bum bum." Later, "Run Sister Run" addresses systematic misogyny with tropical rhythms and hand percussion ("Hiding behind a Supreme Court urinal"). The LP's lead single, "Opposite House," features fellow indie darling Angel Olsen on backing vocals. Slow-grooving bass and rhythm guitar, strings, and vibraphone set a chill tone for absurdist lyrics like "From the window I can see/You coming back to me/How can this be?/My window's a tree." Olsen is one of many guests on the album, including Blake Mills ("Low Flyin' Bird"), Stuart Bogie ("Laughter Is the Best Medicine"), and HOOPS, the latter of whom appears on the psychedelic "It" ("It is not wealth to have more than others/It is not peace when others are in pain"). The roster of contributors is employed tastefully, as the album stays consistently coherent and low-key. Though those who don't process the lyrics will be missing a lauded part of the McCombs experience, Mangy Love, arguably more than ever, works as a musical expression alone, mixing the sometimes caustic lyrics and roguish indie touches with an overriding smooth '70s veneer. For those who take it all in, the album engages both the intellectual and aural pleasure centers. Or, to quote Mangy Love, it's "Sugar and spice and everything weird."

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