That McCombs is clearly having fun even when he appears to be dead serious as with "The Executioner's Song," say sets his kind of innocence apart from the standard journo narratives of indie rock discovery. As great as Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar, 2007) is, it will never live down the "dude goes into the forest and records awesome bummer breakup album" rap that's stamped across it, for the foreseeable future, like a "The Nice Price" sticker.
But McCombs' mercurial self-presentation seems less like the stamp of a "truer" authenticity than Bon Iver's than a sustained parry of that terrible word. Not to forget, either, that Catacombs has been lauded in Vice and given Pitchfork's Best New Music designation. Whether or not we've fussed our way into being able to describe what makes McCombs' music so difficult to digest, there's something tough and unyielding at its center. Partly I wonder whether this is what rock would sound like without Pavement, but mostly I listen. When it hits wrong, the boredom is palpable. But just as often Catacombs conveys the bottom falling out of meaning in gorgeous slow motion.
With the Papercuts, Girls
Sept. 9, 9 p.m. (doors 8 p.m.), $14$16
Great American Music Hall
859 O'Farrell, SF