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For nearly a decade, California-born itinerant McCombs has been releasing brilliant records. The last two, however (2009’s ‘Catacombs’ and this year’s ‘Wit’s End’), massively slowed the tempos, framing the singer-songwriter’s mysterious and literary words against spiralling, soporific dirges. Which is all very well, just a little… well, unexciting. Aside from the Lynchian ‘To Every Man His Chimera’ (which ‘barrels’ along at the speed of grass growing), ‘Humor Risk’ is a return to the lusher, sparkier climes of 2007’s ‘Dropping The Writ’. Chugging, more propulsive tempos are the norm here, and this more pop-leaning bent in no way damages McCombs’ enigmatic lyrics. ‘Love Thine Enemy’ spends three perplexing minutes dissecting the phrase, ‘The Living Word’ tangles up L Ron Hubbard and Ho Chi Minh, and then things get even weirder. If McCombs hasn’t yet made his masterpiece, he’s exploring his boundaries and, no doubt, getting closer.

By Tom Pinnock

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