Well I’d had a lot to drink; that should be mentioned forthright. We’d celebrated a friend’s birthday all afternoon and evening until only a late-night bus – the last one available – dropped me off about thirty minutes from my apartment. The usually hectic four lanes of St. Laurent stretched vacantly and the May breeze felt mild as Cass McCombs attuned my ears to his slow allure. A sound patient but rewarding, Wit’s End turned my half hour journey into an hour-long promenade which reveled the full sorrow of ‘Memory Stain’ as much as the tender romance of ‘The Lonely Doll’.
That walk wouldn’t have felt so majestic had I even half-liked Wit’s End beforehand. But I didn’t; on initial spins, this record seemed like a bore, with ‘County Line’ in particular sounding like some anemic AM Radio misfire from the 70s. But that’s precisely the track that wormed passed my skepticism while I sat inebriated on the bus; the quirks of its dated arrangement began to shape a bittersweet momentum and McCombs’ mournful vocals create this immensely fragile chorus. From there I was hooked.
Which brings me back to the beginning: I’d had a lot to drink and the languid, depressing Wit’s End should’ve been the last album on my iPod to sustain a late-night buzz. It’s slow – by god it’s slow – but McCombs’ ornate arrangements and distinctive vocals stand in sharp contrast to the shallow balladry of the average singer-songwriter. Wit’s End isn’t about stroking the catharsis that feels neglected at a given time; it’s about uncovering the emotions you’d forgotten that matter.