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Mac DeMarco’s return to goofiness: ‘Old Dog Demos’

| Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Ivan Skvaril

As with many indie rock artists, you can run into some pretty intense contrasts with Mac DeMarco. His debut album, “Rock and Roll Night Club” shows off his bizarre ability to not take anything seriously. A radio DJ with a very warped voice named Dojo Dan leads you through the album — from the nonsensical lyrics of “Baby’s Wearing Blue Jeans,” to the stumbling, half-asleep riffs of “She’s Really All I Need.” It’s an album that doesn’t try to care too much. But regardless of this lack of effort, Mac DeMarco’s debut is an exceptional album.

Since then, however, Mac has gradually evolved from the careless partying degenerate of his past to the hopeless romantic that is present in his latest album, “This Old Dog.”

Since Mac’s newly released “Old Dog Demos” is a re-hashing of “This Old Dog,” however, a proper understanding of “This Old Dog” is necessary to understand his demos.

It’s an album that steps away from the warped psychedelia of his earlier recordings, and the music on it takes on a much more heartbroken tone. It’s a precise and bright display of sincere songwriting — something not common in Mac’s catalogue.

“This Old Dog” is terribly sad. Mac’s lyrics are introspective, both examining the flaws of his past and his, at times, inability to love. The album presents a matured Mac DeMarco, lyrically profound and able. The album is an incredibly respectable, somber piece, and, with it, it seems the all-loving buffoon we enjoyed so thoroughly in his past has moved on with the album.

Luckily, Mac’s most recent release of “Old Dog Demos” gives hope. In this 43-minute album, Mac throws together several unreleased studio gems written during the “This Old Dog” recordings. The theme of heartbreak and lyrical proficiency present in “This Old Dog” bleed into “Old Dog Demos,” but not in an overbearing manner.

On the opening track, “Is It Boy,” Mac presents nostalgic lyrics of advice: “When the old man gets to see it / He’ll be whistling / All his worries away / And I know just how you see them / Keep believin’ / That you’ll find your foot someday.” There are definitely depressed undertones in these lyrics, but the album is much less introspective — a theme very present on, arguably, Mac’s most well-respected album, “Salad Days.”

The first seven tracks are like this. Yes, they are sad, but they certainly do not take themselves too seriously. However, the remaining eight tracks step away entirely from the underlying motifs, and return to the goofy, synth-heavy tracks that made Mac DeMarco famous.

The strongest track on the album is an instrumental cover of the track “One More Love Song” from the album “This Old Dog.” Rather than singing about the flaws of love, Mac takes some time to let the music speak. The pitch is toned down from its original version, and the whole song is slower and more wavy. He uses his voice as an instrument, not by singing actual words but only las, bums and los.

The greatest examples of the return of Mac to his antics on this demo include tracks titled “Jimsy,” “Sheeta,” “Umaro,” “Lady Eboshi” and “Master Yupa.” Indicated by the titles of these songs, and Mac’s latest single release — a cover of “Honey Moon” by Haruomi Hosono — he has a newfound love for Japanese culture. Sheeta, Lady Eboshi and Master Yupa are characters from Studio Ghibli movies, while Umaro is a character in Final Fantasy and Jimsy is a character from a Nippon film.

Each of these songs and many other tracks on the demo have very psychedelic vibes, and coax the return of musically inclined goofball Mac DeMarco.

Shamrocks: 4/5

Label: Captured Track Records

Favorite Track: “One More Love Song”

If you Like: Ariel Pink, King Krule, Unknown Mortal Orchestra

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