Cass McCombs

Humour Risk
November 10, 2011

How fortunate I was to have singer-songwriter Cass McCombs’ latest land in my lap; it definitely sent tingles of the good kind down my spine listening to it. Anyone familiar with the work of Cass McCombs knows what I’m talking about; his calming and at times smooth as velvet vocals, coupled with his innate storytelling ability, makes for his stunning sixth album Humor Risk.

For those not familiar with Cass, by all published accounts he is a fairly recluse lad when it comes to the fame game, not giving much of his personal life away. He has lived a nomadic life, and once upon a time worked a fascinating array of jobs, from a movie projectionist to pottering around horse stables. No doubt his nomadic life and unique experiences have somewhat been the inspiration for much of his material.

Before listening to the album, I had expected big things from it. On checking out Cass’ website it described Humor Risk as “an attempt at laughter instead of confusion, chaos instead of morality”, which implied to me that while staying true to the expected folk/rock sound, this album would be fun, relaxed, and maybe just a little bit experimental lyrically.

The pace of most tracks makes Humor Risk a refreshing change from his previous release Wit’s End. The album opens with Love Thine Enemy, not a bad introduction to Cass’ style for those who haven’t heard his previous albums, though after no break in the rhythm and a chorus sung what seems like more than its four times over, it can start to sound ever so slightly repetitive.
One of my favorite tracks on this album is The Same Thing, it has a charming, dream-like, airy quality, carrying a collection of lovelorn lyrics. The bone chilling track of the album, To Every Man His Chimera, is a beautiful gem musically, featuring sporadic, haunting drumming and some seriously dark and gloomy lyrics. The track title says it all really! Robin Egg Blue pulls you out of the haunting darkness of the previous track with its jaunty folk-pop style, and lyrically is the perfect example of Cass’ storytelling ability shining through.

Humor Risk on a whole is an infectious concoction of Cass McCombs’ trademark narrative style lyrics, calm and steady vocals and flowing melodies, accompanied by a deeply rhythm-based, gritty guitar sound, all while still maintaining a folk-pop sensibility. The album seems like a collection of odds and ends track-wise as opposed to a more traditional themed album, however I don’t think it would own the uniqueness it does if it flowed ‘traditionally’. Humor Risk certainly displays Cass McCombs’ strong and stunning song-writing and musical talent from start to finish.
Julia Innocenzi