Few things are certain in life. Except for paying taxes, the changing of the seasons and dying of course. To this short list we can now also add Mac DeMarco’s yearly album releases. Is that a good thing or not? Well, we had to lie down on the couch for a while to come up with an answer to that.
I have to admit that the slacker rock business made us a bit weary. It even kept me away from the king of slackers, Mac DeMarco for a few years. I totally digged Salad Days 5 years ago but skipped out on Another One (2015) and This Old Dog (2017). Yet after a few initial spins of DeMarco spring release, Here Comes The Cowboy, I am now ready to let the half-assed part of me take over again. At least for 45 minutes or so.
Since DeMarco moved to Los Angeles he released more deeper work with This Old Dog. And with deep work I mean work that is more relatable without losing all the limp sense humor. This album follows the same track, it is funny at times and at other times just simply trendsetting.
Here Comes The Cowboy begins with a hypnotic guitar plucking Western intro in which DeMarco simply speaks out the the title of the album over and over again. Het must have thought desert travel is a boring activity so why be romantic about it. Here Comes The Cowboy is not the next Morricone tribute. We had enough of those DeMarco seems to say because this ‘score’ is free from any tension building. DeMarco does exactly the opposite of that. With as little energy as possible he made the start his album just as exciting as a repetitive desk job.
The album really kicks off with ‘Nobody’. It is a sluggish autobiography recount about being in the center of attention: “I’m the preacher. A done decision. Another creature, who’s lost its vision”, DeMarco sings. Maybe a refer to the first song is in place because stardom made him sort of a lonesome cowboy with LA being his personal desert. The songs that follow ‘Nobody’ are a bit dull although the lovely laziness still predominates. ‘Finally Alone’ is saved from dullness by an out of tone falsetto while the watery in-out of rhythm melody on ‘On Little Dogs’ brings some playfulness. With a slow beat, strumming guitar and a few chirping birds on the background ‘Preoccupied’ is the ideal soundtrack to do some intense window staring by: ”The days that we’re living in. Preoccupied, and nobody’s hiding it”, so he sings. At this point of the album you will be full under the familiar hypnotic slacker spell of DeMarco. However, just at that precise moment Mac DeMarco rams in a train going at full speed through your brain: CHOO, CHOO!
‘Choo, Choo’, is a funk song with a real train whistle backing up DeMarco’s falsetto “choo, choo (take ride with me)” and a Chinese gong. A gong? Yes, a gong. I am pretty sure this song will make it to the top 10 list of toddler music so what it is doing here? Well, nothing really. Probably it is just shits and giggles. After the train has passed in about two and half minutes DeMarco picks up the slow pace he left us with.
‘K’ is genuine and simple while ‘On The Square’ and notably ‘All of Our Yesterdays’ are characteristically dreamy and it keeps that way until the seven and a half minute finale. ‘Baby Bye Bye’ is an essential to the Mac DeMarco catalogue if you ask me. The song starts off with a stately ‘Cheers-like’ piano which a minute later is completely abandoned. Again the title of the song persists throughout the song, this time with some disorientated guitar play. Yet after about four minutes suddenly a train appears again. This time it is a full but slow, sexy soul train. DeMarco rides the train like James Brown in his heydays. With a slight overkill on “Yeehaw’s” and excessive laughter Here Comes The Cowboy comes to a somewhat strange ending.
Here Comes The Cowboy is Mac DeMarco’s ‘next in line’ album. Calmness and craziness alternate and that’s about it. Some songs stand out while most others are just relaxing follow ups to earlier work. With the release of Salad Days in 2014 it was already clear DeMarco found his creative comfort zone. Here at Sounds from the Dark Side we have to conclude that five years down the line DeMarco did not take a step in any other direction. He chose to play it safe after he coined a good concept. Is there any wrong with that? We don’t think so. Every once in while is nice to check up on Mac DeMarco because he still gots what it takes to make you gear a bit down. Only now we can definitively say there is no urgency to keep track of his projects. Let’s just loosely say we will check up on him again in 2025, so stay tuned.
Label: Mac’s Record Label, 2019
- Here Comes the Cowboy (3:00)
- Nobody (3:32)
- Finally Alone (2:24)
- Little Dogs March (2:29)
- Preoccupied (3:59)
- Choo Choo (2:39)
- K (3:33)
- Heart to Heart (3:31)
- Hey Cowgirl (2:15)
- On the Square (3:29)
- All of Our Yesterdays (4:03)
- Skyless Moon (4:04)
- Baby Bye Bye (7:28)
Review by Wander Meulemans // 280519