This first time I saw Mac DeMarco was at a sunny festival. In the open air and in front of a crowd largely consisting of Demarco virgins, his funny charisma couldn’t help but win over the audience, the scatty and drunk band rolling through their set with confidence. Next time I caught them was a few months later as they were coming to the end of the same world tour, when they headlined a decent sized London venue. This time the band were fully-focussed and professional – even the jokey medley featuring a Limp Bizkit ‘classic’ seemed well rehearsed. The crowd also got a lot more involved, singing along and jumping up and down. Suddenly, Mac DeMarco had a proper fanbase on his hands. He was starting to look a bit like a rock star.
Salad Days, although named in trademark ‘kooky’ Demarco style, is a different animal altogether. The title track opens the record, and sees him musing about “getting older, chip up on my shoulder”. This isn’t the teen spirit of ‘Rock’n’Roll Night Club’. Salad Days also seems like a cruel joke, as much of this album is fully recorded by Mac himself, in an airless flat in New York, equipment slowly warping because of the heat from his constant chain smoking.
That’s not to say that he’s lost any of the charming aesthetic which made him appealing in the first instance. The guitars are still idiosyncratic in their picked nature, pretty harmonies rise high, there’s even a bit of synth here and there to lighten the tone towards a sort of ’80s easy listening vibe. Lyrically, however, he’s dealing with much more downbeat topics. In the same way Metronomy have made a record based on the ‘fear of missing out’ while on tour, DeMarco uses his time drinking whiskey in the back of a van halfway across Europe to muse: “Take my advice / Take it easy brother… go home”.
The belter on the album, ‘Passing Out Pieces’, provides the album with some dense, horn ‘n’ synth-laden refreshment at the midway point. “What mum don’t know has taken its toll on me” he croons, to a thousand wide-eyed teenage fans wondering what they’re doing while they take another toke of their recently imported Viceroy’s.
Salad Days comes after months of Mac DeMarco developing into something more than a joker with a trick up his sleeve and an ironic medley to end his set with. As he says himself on ‘Chamber Of Reflection’: “Spend some time away, waiting for the day I’m born again”. He’s growing up, and so are his fans. More importantly, so is his music.
Words: Nicholas Burman
Mac’s naked self portraits courtesy of Urban Outfitters’ Disposable Diary (click the link to see more. Maybe not if you’re at work though…)
Pretentious or non?
Here at The-Monitors we strive to not disappear up our own arse. If, at any point we have, you can Tweet the writer thoughtless abuse over at @ImBurman