Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cass McCombs: Wit's End (2011)


(Domino)

I'm excited for this Californian singer-songwriter's forthcoming sixth album, Humor Risk, as the songs being issued to promote it show an artist working at a much higer level than on the majority of his prior work, despite a good deal of acclaim afforded him since he surfaced around 2002. I was excited enough by the material Domino sent me that I reversed an earlier decision to ignore the previous record from the prolific McCombs, Wit's End, released earlier this year.

Unfortunately, this record ends up reminding me why I've always been a bit of a dissenter about McCombs, as he falls into a lot of negative stereotypes I have about folkies in general. McCombs also here welcomes the currently in-vogue circa 1986 MOR production of the likes of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, and even though his talent is clearly leaps and bounds above the similarly watered-down Kurt Vile, his work on this album meanders and collapses, pretty as it is.

McCombs has spent his entire career on the cusp of attaining the widespread success of the likes of Iron & Wine, Alexi Murdoch, and Sufjan Stevens. He hasn't missed for lack of talent -- there is a real and evocative voice there, it just gets locked in too-consistently moody dirges that frequently stretch for seven to eight minutes. With any luck, given the extra-loud praise afforded this release, Humor Risk will mark the point when I finally break past my prejudices and fall for his work. We'll find out in less than a month.

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