For those who have heard of Mac DeMarco, you probably know as much about his onstage antics as you do about his music. For those who haven’t his live performances include stunts of the same ilk as Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off a bat – only with more nudity. But DeMarco isn’t doing this as a publicity stunt or to distract from his shortcomings and like Ozzy his live performances are all part of his indifferent self-assured attitude which comes across in his musical style. Mac is much more concerned with making sure his friends are having a laugh. It is his talent as a songwriter and musician have sustained that attention rather than his onstage self-sodomising with a drum stick.
Having previously recorded under the moniker ‘Makeout Videotape’ this is his third release as Mac DeMarco and is his second full-length album. Salad Days is a good place to start for those who previously haven’t delved into his strange Neverland. The west coast indie-rock that has in recent years be headed by female vocalists in bands such as Best Coast, Tennis and Cults has been soaked in a blend of blue wave and dream rock on Salad Days inspired by the same rock ’n’ roll era but with a lo-fi effortlessness.
In his first EP Rock and Roll Night Club his fuzzy swooning rock came across as almost angsty amongst his hazy rifts and catchy hooks. Although he’s lost some of his shoegazing qualities, he has kept what is important, which is his ability to balance on the line between irony and sincerity. His musical maturity has developed over his two full length albums and his slackers love ballads sound all the more direct and refined on Salad Days.
But his growing maturity as an artist can’t escape the dirty fingered hands of youth which comes across in great lines like ‘Worried about his haircut Calm down, sweetheart, grow up’. This lyric, from the opening title track ‘Salad Days’ is a simple lament to the trials and tribulations of growing up and the symptoms of fame; themes which transcend a single track on the album and continue throughout songs such as ‘Blue Boy’ which gives a nod to songs of the same name by Orange Juice and Joni Mitchell.
His nonchalant approach towards music comes across in all aspects, from the casual album cover that looks as though he has found the first photo of him he could find and handwritten on it, to the fact that he started writing music as a joke. For a further insight into his laidback attitude his Weird Vibes interviews for MTV Hive in which he wonders around festivals asking weird questions to fellow artists and peeking over fences are a great place to start. His simple song structures and repetitive lyrics in songs like ‘Brother’ would seem to epitomise him as a character but this simplicity shouldn’t be mistaken for slow-wit.
On track six of the album ‘Let My Baby Stay’ Demarco shows us the power of a simple song structure and that lyrics don’t need to be abstract or complicated to convey a message. His delivery is honest, earnest and the songs plays out like a poem. The same can be said for ‘Treat Her Better’ which showcases his ability to switch effortlessly from heartfelt sorrow to adolescent skit with its stripped back production.
This wavering between deeply insight and adolescent satire isn’t a battle but a sophisticated convergence because he doesn’t need all that smoke and mirrors to get his message across. But even on the tracks with a heavier production such as ‘Chamber of Reflection’ DeMarco’s talent still shines through as the voice of the peter pan generation with this track being one of the album highlights. Salad Days shows his ability as a versatile artist and credible song writer who doesn’t need all that bravado but does stupid stuff anyway to have a good time. If you haven’t checked out Mac Demarco before, now would be a good time if not for his great musical abilities then for his endearing character, both of which perfectly emulate what it is to be in your twenties and wish you weren’t.