Back in October, enigmatic folk artist Cass McCombs released his seventh full-length, Big Wheel and Others, a double album that led us through hypnotic rhythm cycles and tangential, but beautiful, guitar passages, intimate if shadowed vocal lines, and lyrics that fit together like a Rubik’s cube—the meaning behind them was always there, but eluded direct visibility even when the text was at its most confessional. A meandering intricacy has always graced McCombs’ work.
Cass McCombs seems to belong to another era, one without modern video or recording technology, so it’s a little disorienting to realize that his songs have music videos. But so they do: the video for the (almost) title track of the new album, “Big Wheel,” premiered from Domino Records today courtesy of McCombs’ friend and collaborator Albert Herter, who shot the footage in New York, California, and China. “Big Wheel” opens with a foreboding, cyclical guitar line that speeds up at the pace of a rumbling freight train. In the video, these first bars are accompanied by a procession of slogans: large, all-capitol letter words like “JUSTICE,” “MASTER,” and “EVERYTHING” appear on the screen, over backdrops of a closeup of a chicken’s face, a lit-up building facade at night, or a basement door that’s opened when the song’s drums kick in. What follows is a busy psychedelic collage, montages intersperse with home video clips, with all the bleak grandness and obscurity of the song itself.
Images of cities, surreally collaged-together kaleidoscope imagery, and clips of talk show hosts with black ovals pasted over their faces aren’t what immediately comes to mind when you listen to Cass McCombs, whose music more closely embodies a grainy picture of solitary travels through America’s West. The cuts in this video are diverse—a grainily filmed dog coming towards the camera, a surreal, abstract, colorful backdrop with the word “WOMAN” written over it—and a lack of linear development makes the video seem a little unpredictable, even threatening.
The range of the collage is wide, and their apparently random sequence heightens the violence and surreality of the images, but this video is held together by a strange and distinct perspective. Many of the actions are filmed from the point of view of the viewer; in one recurring clip, a hand that appears to belong to the person holding the camera reaches out to open a door. The doctored visuals, the words that flash onto our field of vision as we watch the imagery unfold, puts us in the mindset of a personality that remains constant throughout the video. The only sense the chronology makes, by the end of the three and a half minute “Big Wheel,” is that established by the perspective from which these images are filmed. True to McCombs’ aesthetic, we’re not given an image of this video’s protagonist, but we’re given a detailed tour of all the scenery inside his head.
Watch the video for “Big Wheel” below, and learn more about Cass McCombs’ latest album, Big Wheel and Others, by going here!