Album Review

Cass McCombs, 'Catacombs'

July 27, 2009

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Indie Rock
Cass McCombs Catacombs
ESSENTIAL “Dreams-Come-True-Girl’’
Cass McCombs plays at T.T. the Bear’s tomorrow with Jennifer O’Connor and Mike Bones at 9 p.m. Tickets are $11 at

Cass McCombs is a loosely poetic, 20-something, singing wanderer who zigzagged onto our playlists through open-mike nights from LA to Baltimore. At least that’s what we’re told; his Wikipedia bio is apparently mostly false. Such quirks dovetail with the satisfying, woody twang of McCombs’s fourth album, “Catacombs,’’ which delivers pared-down tunes wrapped in just enough of a gossamer shroud to keep us guessing. Sometimes the coolly lit songs in McCombs’s parallel pop universes sound like a substitute “Blue Velvet’’ soundtrack (“Dreams-Come-True-Girl,’’ featuring actress Karen Black), others a mating of John Lennon with the Everly Brothers (“Jonesy Boy’’), or recordings from a reverberant garage, lovingly voiced with divine steel-guitar lines (“Harmonia’’) or drums thick with a military beat (“Lionkiller Got Married’’). More fragile than 2007’s “Dropping the Writ,’’ the album is never too delicate. McCombs’s wily wit wouldn’t allow that. “My sister, my spouse,’’ he croons unrepentantly on one fractured love song, “you’re burning at both ends.’’ McCombs’s well-mannered missives certainly aren’t cheery, but they manage to stir up disarming warmth nonetheless. (Out now) TRISTRAM LOZAW