Cass McCombs has always been our little secret. But for how long?

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It beggars belief that Cass McCombs isn’t a superstar. Will Ellen make him one?

Sometimes you read something that you agree with so much, that it sticks in your head and never leaves.

It doesn’t need to be profound, it doesn’t need to be a new thought, it doesn’t even need to be well written. But it so closely aligns with your personal views that you just can’t get it out of your mind.

I was reading Monster Children’s wrap of the best albums of the year last week and the writer echoed a thought I’ve had for years.

“It still amazes and baffles me that some people have never heard of Cass McCombs. The Californian singer-songwriter has been teetering on the brink of stardom for years. He’s released eight albums in the last 14 years, and while sure, he’s garnered some diehard fans, he’s also remained largely obscure. What kind of a world must you live in to have never heard the name Cass McCombs? I don’t know, and I don’t want to.”

That review tells you nothing about Cass McCombs’ music, but the exasperation at his lack of recognition in popular culture will resonate with those who are already fans.

They’re almost like a jam band, just one that knows how to write songs that don’t suck.

Seeing McCombs live for the first time makes me feel even more stupefied that he’s not commanding huge crowds on this rare Australian visit.

On record, his voice is deep and brimming with emotion. Live, it’s exactly the same. Except you can see into his eyes as he croons.

He’s an incredible guitarist, in fact his whole band are as proficient as any indie band on the circuit right now. 

They fall into little jazz interludes between songs, they throw in little reggae and surf rock breaks, they elongate certain songs with big solos and jam on grooves for as long as they feel like. 

They’re almost like a jam band, just one that knows how to write songs that don’t suck.

For a guy with eight records to his name, McCombs perhaps draws a little too heavily from his past two, Mangy Love and Big Wheel and Others. But it’s not as though those songs aren’t brilliant. Mangy Love was one of our favourite records of the year, after all.

‘Opposite House’ and ‘Bum Bum Bum’ makes for a smooth beginning. The bouncy ‘Run Sister Run’ has every single member of the crowd jiving and ‘Cry’ is achingly soulful.  

But when he takes us back further, things get really special. ‘Robin Egg Blue’ is as breezy as it is brilliant and a fine showcase of McCombs’ lyrical prowess and ‘Dreams-Come-True Girl’ might be the sweetest love song of the past ten years.

Furthermore, ‘County Line’ is one of the greatest songs of all time, in any genre. It’s the kind of song of which you wouldn’t change a note, a lyric, a single millisecond. It’s the kind of song you want everyone to hear.


This article was almost completely written when I was scrolling through Facebook and saw this post from Cass McCombs’ account.

"Tune in to the network television debut of Cass McCombs Band on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Friday December 16!"

If you think that an appearance on one of the biggest shows on television won’t change anything, you’re absolutely, subjectively wrong. You don’t play in front of four million television viewers without getting at least some kind of traction.

But will it translate? Will the world finally see what we see in the music of Cass McCombs? Is he going to move from the brink of stardom to fully-fledged indie/mainstream crossover?

Probably not. And that’s probably for the best. But I hope that the next time we see Cass McCombs in Australia, there are plenty more converts there to swoon with us.