Published Dec 11, 2015One should know by now not to take Cass McCombs' album titles at face value, as they tend to be double entendres. A Folk Set Apart isn't really a folk album, at least not until two-thirds through.
It is, however (as its subtitle more or less spells out) a collection of rarities, B-sides and oddities, spanning 2003 until last year, encompassing a wide and disparate array of collaborations with on the surface unlikely-sounding folks including Phish's Mike Gordon (on highly experimental six-and-a-half-minute-long "Texas") and Deerhoof's Chris Cohen (on hooky "Poet's Day" and "An Other"). There are also songs culled from split 7-inches with the likes of the Meat Puppets (power poppy highlight "Evangeline" and "Night Of The World") and folk singer Michael Hurley ("Three Men Sitting On A Hollow Log").
Like McCombs' live show, A Folk Set Apart often rocks harder than you might have expected if you'd started out mid-career with 2009's Catacombs; if you're more familiar with McCombs' mellow side, start with slow-burning protest song "Bradley Manning," which should entice you. The album illustrates his punk rock origins and paints a line between the pounding VU-like psychedelia of 7-inch single "I Cannot Lie" and its B-side, a natural union of garage and Beatles called "A.Y.D." There are trashy experiments galore: what sounds like a fire alarm goes off and keeps going off throughout the tail end of previously unreleased "Oatmeal," while the sound of a truck backing in and honking are used quite musically in 2010's Catacombs outtake "Traffic Of Souls."
McCombs' music tends to wear well, even if at first you wonder what the heck he is doing. That is especially true for A Folk Set Apart, comprised as it is of just the cracks, the nooks and crannies between McCombs' already eccentric acclaimed albums.
Luckily, McCombs' "junk" is really good. A Folk Set Apart demonstrates not just his punk rock side, but all of the many facets McCombs has shown over the years. It would be an odd place to start your voyage of discovery, but then odd is kind of McCombs' middle name — so wander in. (Domino)