Record Review: Cass McCombs

Cass McCombs

Humor Risk

San Francisco, CA

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“Indie-folk’s favorite mercurial mystery man strikes again”

Halfway between a troubadour and a magician, Cass McCombs churns out albums that are always different, often obfuscated, but consistently delightful. His latest record Humor Risk, which shares the name of a 1921 short film starring the Marx Brothers, is his sixth since 2002, and his second this year. McCombs is known for writing continuously then grouping his songs together by theme to create albums. Humor Risk comes from the same collection of songs as April’s Wit’s End, and while it is unmistakably a sibling of the last album, similarly anchored in the darker emotions that come with being alive, its eight tracks are much more rhythm-driven and more diverse in their sound and content.

The first track’s refrain, “Love thine enemy/Hate the lack of sincerity” sets the stage for an album that is seemingly more about sound than content. Most of the songs are cryptic, and deliberately employ clichés, almost as if McCombs wants us to think about how stupid and meaningless much of our banter its. Only the ballad “Mystery Mail” tells a straight story. “The Same Thing” sounds like a smart collaboration between Elliott Smith and the Beach Boys, and while “The Living Word” is a bit of sad sap song, the upbeat “Robin Egg Blue” is anything but. (Domino Records)

Produced by Cass McCombs and Ariel Rechtshaid.

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