Cass McCombs – Tip of the Sphere
Tip of the Sphere is a record that never quite seems to find its feet despite having a plethora of creative and interesting ideas
Tip of the Sphere is a scrappy, low-stakes affair that combines Cass McCombs' love for tight, rootsy Americana with his willingness to indulge a range of unconnected whims. There's a fine line between hypnotic and forgettable when it comes to music, and sometimes cohesion can be a decisive factor. The success of McCombs' ninth album will likely depend on how far down the rabbit hole listeners are willing to follow.
The first few songs are fairly straightforward, with tales of life on the road, train robberies and an ode to a person/star, but there are telling moments of indulgence that point toward future excesses, like the loose solo trailing around the end of I Followed the River South To What. Absentee and Real Life are bursting with loping, loquacious storytelling while American Canyon Sutra is the most aberrant moment with its synthesised drums, spoken word musings and gong.
Sleeping Volcanoes, the first song released back in October, is one of the more straight-up rock songs on the album. Its instrumental precision is matched with fascinating lyrics that ponder the unknown volatility present in all of us, even touching on the political; 'Welcome to cuckoo land / Home of the fake'.
Tying Up Loose Ends ironically (purposefully?) attempts nothing of the sort, creating a soft, hazy sonic texture with distant, vacant harmonica, before the ten-minute closer, Rounder, starts off chipper, but seems to wander off on a jazzy sojourn about four minutes in, never to return. It's a fitting end to a record that never quite seems to find its feet, despite having a plethora of creative and interesting ideas.
Listen to: Absentee, Sleeping Volcanoes