Mac DeMarco Here Comes the Cowboy

[Mac's Record Label; 2019]

Styles: singer-songwriter, Americana, regressive
Others: Neil Young, Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons

Mac DeMarco is a formula musician. That’s not a bad thing. He has a passion for A&R rock, but on Here Comes the Cowboy, he leans toward the singer-songwriter motif moreso than the controlling maestro persona of previous releases. We know that Mac records all his albums by himself, and the cowboy motif here only reinforces any sort of solitary confinement he seeks. It’s a convenient out for how self-manifested aspects of his artistry are, straddling the line between casual jokester and precise composer.

Here Comes the Cowboy arrives at a time when country music and its associated conventions are in flux. With “Old Town Road” being the juggernaut that it is, with several artists taking it upon themselves to fester a prideful reenactment of cowboy culture, Mac DeMarco’s charitable interpretation of the Western frontier’s heroes seems ill-advised. But it makes sense in a character arc that Mac would morph from lovable goofball making “jizz-jazz” to forlorn cowboy, world-weary by the endless touring and celebrity interactions that come with being a charismatic musician. In contrast to Be the Cowboy by Mitski, who changes between roles chameleon-like throughout, Mac asserts himself as the cowboy, just a lonesome soul tryna make it in this world.

Another reference point is Japanese pop musician Haruomi Hosono, one of DeMarco’s musical heroes. DeMarco has covered Hosono in concert and speaks fondly of him as a mentor in spirit, so it’s perhaps no surprise that Here Comes the Cowboy sounds awfully similar to 1973’s Hosono House. But there’s a lack. Maybe it’s the dynamism displayed on Hosono’s debut that makes it so intrinsically enthralling, but on Here Comes the Cowboy, the whole thing feels more like American gaijin vs. Japanese cowboy copypasta.

As Mac DeMarco’s image looms larger and larger over the legacy of this decade’s indie rock, it’s only natural he becomes more insular as a reaction. But despite the oblique cultural touchstones and off-beat sensibility, DeMarco isn’t exactly a lonesome cowboy in real life. Perhaps the cowboy persona conceals a deeper truth he hints at internally, but unfortunately we don’t find any such refinement on Here Comes the Cowboy. Mac DeMarco lives in his own world, and I don’t think we’re invited in.

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