Cass McCombs: Humor Risk (Domino) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Issue #38 - 10th Anniversary IssueCass McCombs

Humor Risk


Nov 18, 2011 Issue #38 - 10th Anniversary Issue Bookmark and Share

Prolific iconoclast-type Cass McCombs quickly reappears with his second album of the year. After Wit’s End (note the apostrophe placement), released in April, comes Humor Risk. Get it? Got it.

Wit’s End flirted with some mid-‘70s AOR flavors, with McCombs adding just a pinch of Fleetwood Mac-ism to his usual arsenal of Cryptic Cohen-ism. But for the most part, it was deployed with dependable misery. Hell, just as the title warned, it eschewed some of the wry and humorous lexical gems that acted as life preservers on 2009’s Catacombs for a more direct approach.

But worry not, Humor Risk is here to keep you from drowning in said sorrows, with McCombs letting loose, picking up on that AOR strand again, and this time fully consummating things.

The swagger is apparent right away on “Love Thine Enemy,” which risks rocking, loud drums and fuzzy electric guitar. Or on “Mystery Mail,” where McCombs gets as close as he may ever get to heartland rock with a guitar driven, comi-tragic tale of meth and misfortune. “To Every Man His Chimera” would fit in on Catacombs, were it not for the gritty, modulated rhythm guitar, and such lines as “California makes me sick/Like trying with a rattlesnake/Your teeth to pick.”

On “The Same Thing,” which features a catchy, almost Burt-Bacharach-like chorus arrangement, McCombs sings, “Our love in sunlight/Our pain at evening/Nothing in common/Yet they’re both the same thing.” Indeed, there’s no darkness without light, and while McCombs notoriously dwells in the former, it’s nice to see him grapple with the latter, at moments even giddilycloser “Mariah” goes down slow and silly (“Mariah is aware/That most cabs won’t go down there”). Its oddball pop flavors and production style bringing Ariel Pink to mind. How’s that for an unforeseen comparison? Risky business. (

Author rating: 7/10

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April 27th 2012

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