Mac DeMarco Another One

[Captured Tracks; 2015]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: rock, pop, love songs
Others: Makeout Videotape, Alex Calder

Another One finds “Mac” mostly wearing the one mask — more role than substance1 — of lovelorn melancholia, blurrily animating the most egregious clichés with a certain warped and oddly believable charm. There’s scarcely a trace of other previously assumed “Mac” personas, like the pitched-down sleaze of Rock and Roll Nightclub, or Salad Days’s nostalgia and platitudinous but plausible advice about not worrying, etc. The slightly doleful love songs are now all about girls instead of cigarettes, weird bits of quasi-sincerity and worry washed up on the shore and/or left out too long in the sun. These split not quite evenly between woozy and out-of-focus synth-led sad songs and deceptively upbeat guitar-led sad songs; Mac’s distinctive guitar sound has shifted very slightly, now twangier and more plastic, with less chime and space than earlier material, still less the fuzzy haze of his Makeout Videotape days, and the measure of plunky electric piano has been significantly upped. But the changes in sound are minor compared to the similarities in the songwriting; the guitar chords and melodies, the songs themselves feel reassembled from his own pre-existing (admittedly quite recognizable) repertoire of licks and runs.

While the instrumentation gives the impression of self-bricolage, made up of materials from Mac’s own private collection under a particular washed-out filter, the lyrics derive from common property, things like fragments of old clichés and easy rhymes. Not that there’s no precedent in his earlier material — like “Down on my hands and knees/ Begging you please,” from 2, for example — but Another One comes close to a kind of perfection in simplistic obviousness — “Feeling so confused/ I don’t know what to do” or “Will she love me tomorrow/ I don’t know/ Don’t think so.” Trite as it might sound like it ought to sound, there are few times when unexpected changes in perspective somewhat unbalance things, and the obviousness is peculiarly effective. But it works mostly because of how completely our whole emotional and mental lives are infiltrated and constituted by fragments absorbed from every encounter with “culture.” He’s working on seams of meaning implanted in us, that we have but didn’t choose. Authenticity? I don’t even know what it means, and I haven’t defragmented myself well enough to not be taken in by Mac’s shit; I believe it, even though I “know” it’s not real (or because simplicity = “earnestness”?). Even — especially — on an album as unambitious (And why the fuck should it be? The dual tyranny of profundity and novelty, misleading as they so often are, is eminently rejectable.) as this one, Mac’s personality/persona stitches the pieces into something perplexingly wholesome and all his own, right down to the quick message at the very end.

Speaking of which, we can all find out where he lives now, if you listen all the way, all 20-odd minutes, to the end of Another One (or maybe thanks to the crack investigative journalism displayed on many a Prominent Music Website’s newsfeed). But Mac’s coffee, your reward for the long, inevitable way to his New York abode, when the sky darkens almost to black even though it was a sunny mid-afternoon not that long ago, that coffee — oh boy, well it hasn’t passed through the digestive tract of some imprisoned primate in the far corners of our terrestrial sphere. If he’s not on holiday/tour, you’ll have to have ascended an uncomfortably narrow and winding set of stairs to a room filled with, say, obscene lepidopterological specimens and 16th-century pedagogical woodcuts (I’m guessing here), and as he hands you an oversized mug of black filter coffee, a moth will fly straight into the cup, its wings stilling instantly and curling up on themselves. As you drink it, you’ll know exactly what it means when hollow glistening soap-bubble figures float around the vertices of the room and notice out of the window vast patches of monstrous inconsequentiality drifting by on many spindly legs, the shadow of meaninglessness cast over whatever far corner of now-unrecognizable NY that it’s supposed to be. Love’s an infinite power, it says on my yogi-teabag, but ol’ Mac can teach you that that power doesn’t mean you won’t worry, that you won’t make mistakes, that you’ll forget it’s all not meant to be how you’ve always thought it was going to be. But I’d say evidence is that he’s closer to being a trickster than anything else so far, and I’m not sure I’ll ever find out how bitter his coffee really is. I’m sure there’s a metaphor to be spun out of that.

1. This is saying nothing about Mac DeMarco the real-life living and breathing human being, and I don’t mean to imply some kind of Machiavellian motivation — precisely the opposite in fact.

Links: Mac DeMarco - Captured Tracks

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