(Domino Recording Co.)
Few musicians manage to put out albums in consecutive years, but with Humor Risk, Cass McCombs has released his second record of 2011. There isn’t a real overarching sound that unites the songs; instead, it feels like a collection that demonstrates how a capable singer/songwriter can stretch his creative wings and embody whatever genre he pleases.
“Love Thine Enemy” is an upbeat message of altruism, making kindness seem cool somehow. Immediately following is “The Living Word,” which is much more of a slow acoustic jam. “The Same Thing” is Western-tinged, but a stamping drumbeat keeps the tone upbeat.
A highlight is the darkly twisted “To Every Man His Chimera,” with brutally honest lines like the following: “Everyone I know gossips in their sleep / Everyone I know suffers just like me.” By contrast, “Robin Egg Blue” is a much more up-tempo, biblically-themed tune that makes intellectualism irresistibly catchy. “Mystery Mail” is a curiosity as the album’s most obvious rock song, but also the longest track, managing to maintain the listener’s attention throughout by telling a story about an antagonist named Daniel. “Meet Me at the Mannequin Gallery” has the lo-fi appeal of bands like Sebadoh, as does the thickly distorted but charming “Mariah.”
Cass McCombs is an artist who best suits those who appreciate acoustic musicians paving their own way. He’s not flashy or gaudy. Instead his songs are unpolished fragments, bits of stone that catch the light and reveal their inner jewels without much help.