Cass McCombs has always been an excellent lyricist, but his songwriting was consistently jangly throughout his nine albums, like an old and beat down Mac DeMarco. Sure, at thirty-nine Cass isn’t really that old, unless he does what my father does and says that every year he turns after thirty-nine is still thirty-nine years old, but Cass McCombs’ lyrical material is definitely that of an older, pondering singer-songwriter. DeMarco’s songs still concern heartbreak and lost love, the young man’s game.
Mangy Love, his ninth record over his thirteen-year music career, is not only his best produced record to date, but also his most catchy, like on the opening track “Bum Bum Bum.” It might sound like just a guy with a guitar and a great melody, but the track consists of extremely rich criticisms on racism.
It fits in with the record’s title, Mangy Love, meaning love in poor and shabby condition. With songs about raining inside, low flying birds, critiques on modern technology, society, racism, and sexism, the majority of the record sounds like a human in defeat. In the middle of the song “Medusa’s Outhouse,” Cass blatantly says “here, if it’s so easy, you try.”
That’s not to say that Mangy Love is some overly depressive record about someone giving up on life however. Sure, there’s a lot of defeatist themes, but they appears more as a critique then a declaration of despair. On the song “Laughter is the Best Medicine,” McCombs jokes about crazy recipes for the best medicine to heal it all. If laughter is the best medicine, as the saying goes, then “who’s laugh?”
Over it all however is some of his best musical songwriting to date. Even songs like “Cry” flat-out rock, and he says the line “we’re like two peas in a pod, Netflix and die” in that one. It’s a pretty heavy record when it comes to content, but musically it’s full of his newer laid-back pysch-rock sound, even adding in a couple of woodwind-sounding guitar lines to give it a “Die” by Girls kind of sound. Matter of fact, the whole record has a Girls kind of sound and feel to it. The only major difference is that where Girls wrote about inner problems, McCombs tackles societal issues. He ends the record with one last little P.S.A.—if we don’t change we’re all going down. “I’m a shoe-[in],” he says. “And so are you.”