Mac Demarco is most simply explained as the Bart Simpson of the music world, you’ll be hard pushed to find a review or an article that doesn’t mention the infamous incident featuring the naked artist & a single drumstick. It’s a combination which wouldn’t have seemed out of place in a Simpson’s episode with a cry of “EAT MY SHORTS”. It doesn’t leave much to the imagination. But that is only one side of him, and it’s through his music that Mac paints another: the more emotional, talented & fully clothed one.
Despite his cartoon showmanship, it’s his sincerity & demeanour as an all-round-nice-guy that has earned him his cult following that is turning at an alarming rate into a commercial one.
‘Salad Days’ bursts right into a glimmering childlike singsong doused with enough self-deprecation to recognise the Demarco stamp of musical genius. There’s a paradox of both innocence and acceptance as he nonchalantly sings his ‘lalala’s followed by a reflection on “acting like my life is already over, act your age and try another year”.
With his bandwagon of fans growing stronger, it’s interesting that it’s ‘Salad Days’ that is to propel him fully into the public eye as opposed to the nostalgic strums of ‘2’. I only say this because of the self-confessed “plateau” he feels he has reached, and been aiming for which poses the question of “what’s next?” barely a moment after his third album is released. You can almost hear it in ‘Brother’ which is reminiscent of the seedy slicks of guitar in ‘Rock and Roll Nightclub” but if returning to the sounds of his first album is the sign of a plateau, it certainly sounds smoother than his unkempt appearance would suggest.
But it’s the unkempt appearance and devil may care attitude that are Mac’s charm, he may look dishevelled and act like a 10 year old at times but aside from sticking a drumstick up his backside, he’s just a genuinely likeable guy. And that may not be likeable but no one can resist the joker which is why ‘Goodbye Weekend’’s blues rhythm along with his crooning and lazy but perfect guitar solo see him make the transition from slacker to poet in just 3 minutes.
It seems cliché yet unavoidable to mention one of the first songs explicitly dedicated to his girlfriend Kiera, named ‘Let My Baby Stay’. There is without a doubt feeling on the album, but nothing as raw as this. It sounds comparatively empty to his usual breezy carefree guitar riffs, and you get the feeling you’ve invaded their relationship and overheard him singing her a lullaby and in a sense, that’s true; Demarco has been reluctant to talk about his love life let alone come to terms with his new found fame until now.
’Treat Her Better’ is the pinnacle of his charm, a song that says exactly what it means. It’s pretty much the perfect modern love song, a simple heartbroken plea sung with a sigh that says more than any extended metaphor and a guitar that whines in the same pitch that your heart makes when someone you love does something stupid and inexplicable to upset you. But maybe this is coming from a biased teenage girl who’s had too many boy problems and only falls in love with musicians. Either way, it’s honest and if the scarcity of love songs was down to being unable to “objectify Kiera as this lovey-dovey thing to sell my records,” then that’s good enough reason to swoon at least one out of three songs dedicated to her on ‘Salad Days’.
The album takes on a whole new identity once you’re aware that it was born in Mac’s very own ‘Chamber of Reflection’, his cluttered rectangular living space and home studio in Brooklyn which he barely left during production. If the entire album could be summed up in one concept and song it would be that one. It was written on the subject of the masonry, but when he talks about it, you can see the relevance: “It’s a room people go into before you’re initiated into freemasonry, it’s like a meditation room, and they lock you in there for a period of time. The purpose is to reflect on what you’ve done in your life already and move on from it.” He has a talent, or perhaps a habit of giving his instruments personalities or feelings, and in ‘Chamber of Reflection’ the synth sounds pretty snarling and cynical. It’s also incidentally Tyler, the Creator’s favourite track.
Mac Demarco’s cult following may be a little disappointed with ‘Salad Days’, it’s not as tight as its predecessor. But it’s an album of reflection, it’s not supposed to sound tight. It seems more fitting that each song stands alone for its own worth, rather than melting into a pool of glittering guitars and “songs about nothing” that he describes most of ‘2’ as. It may have been a “pain in the ass” to write, but as we all know of the gap toothed clown, it’s probably not the worst one he’s ever had…
By Bella Roach