Album Review: Mac DeMarco – Here Comes the Cowboy

Print music editor Richard Ainslie reviews the upcoming Mac DeMarco album

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For his fifth album Here Comes the Cowboy, Mac DeMarco has one hand on his guitar, one on his pistol, and, it seems, only one eye on his music. He has always been chilled out, but now that he has won his freedom and moved onto his own label, Mac is relaxing to the point of comatose. Peppered with Western allusions and wombling guitars that sound like there is someone with a didgeridoo trying to vibrate your ears off, the album wears more of a frown than his previous work. Regrettably this deceleration comes across more dull than thoughtful. His songs used to be distinctive thanks to their quirky riffs and melody lines that would ramble off into nowhere. On Here Comes the Cowboy, the strumming is so simple it becomes boring. It sounds as if he is learning to play the guitar and has forgotten how to write lyrics. His last album, This Old Dog, compensated for the slower music with lyrics that could shave your face. The sharpest part of this album is the teeth in the music video for ‘Nobody’ which, by the way, makes no sense. Not to mention the repetition. Not to mention the repetition. Several of the songs sound as though he wrote the first line then went for a joint, and while he was away the lyrics cloned themselves via mitosis. Either that or the tape got stuck on loop.

the album wears more of a frown than his previous work

The opening track has no other words than ‘Here comes the cowboy’, which would be fine if Mac was Daft Punk, but he is not Daft Punk. There are some truly objectionable songs as well, destined to be skipped for all eternity, such as the incongruous, funk infused, wheels-on-the-bus-esque song ‘Choo Choo’ which he presumably wrote while his mum had left him at play group. The first stand-alone lyric on the whole record is ‘I am a preacher’ and I believe him, if he means the preacher at the royal wedding who just rambled nonsense for 20 minutes longer than invited. Another track is ‘Little Dogs March’ which has only a quarter of the character of the Woody Guthrie song it rips off. The message of the album is hidden in a low mist of lazy guitar, and the monotony of the words does nothing to encourage you to fumble for it. There are allusions to cowboys heading for the big city abandoned throughout the tracks, and presumably this is Mac, but he grew up in the big city so it doesn’t seem to correlate. There is a point about adventure vs laziness which is hastily made and easily forgotten, and that concludes any search for a coherent meaning.

Let’s not crucify the album without a fair hearing, however, for there are a few tracks where the riffs shake off their limbs and get going, and word craft pokes its head above the parapet. ‘All of our Yesterdays’, ‘Heart to Heart’ and ‘Nobody’ stand out, the first of which is almost a Salad Days shade of gold, with basslines like a warm breeze blowing over woozy DeMarco lyrics. But none of these gems can make up for the pan of silt they sit in. I recommend you play this record on those particularly uneventful nights when you are more stoned than the blasphemer in Life of Brian. Maybe he has hidden a point somewhere, but I am not going to waste time looking for it.

there are a few tracks where the riffs shake off their limbs and get going, and word craft pokes its head above the parapet

The album ends with a seven-and-a-half-minute slog featuring six agonising minutes of the words ‘Baby bye bye’, Mac screaming, and yee haws. At this point I remembered the caribou from Planet Earth who must trek 5000 miles across a bland frozen tundra. Except now I imagine Mac DeMarco screaming at those caribou all the way. Then I pray that the wolves get them. His recent collaboration tracks on Logic’s tragedy of an album are the same shade of grey; it seems like Mac has got stuck in an unadventurous rut. His live shows are famous for their insanity and rectal drumsticks, but it’s hard to imagine the crowd reaching the same fever with these songs. He has forgotten that it isn’t the weirdness we loved his music for all along, it was the jangling guitar and lyrics honed to a fine edge, which were last seen together circa 2014.  At worst the album is frustrating but at best, I can describe it with one word which all music should fear like the Black Death: it is boring.

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