Mac DeMarco’s reputation precedes him; these days he’s almost known more for his quirky banter than his off-colour jangle pop. But while the Canadian appears as untroubled as ever – just look at his Instagram – the decidely more acoustic and stripped-back approach he takes on This Old Dog suggests time may be catching up with him. The tunes here are wistful and sobering, indicative of a man at odds with the boyish persona that has followed him to fame.
Those who wanted evolution from DeMarco have it in tone, if not necessarily in his songwriting. Lead single My Old Man is simple to a fault, with a three-chord progression that repeats throughout the entire track, but it also boasts some of his most pensive lyricism to date as he squares up to mortality. “There’s a price tag hanging off of having all that fun,” he drawls over a drum machine beat and twangy guitar strumming. At 27, Mac DeMarco isn’t old, but he’s never sounded so weary.
His past albums were sombre and introspective at times, but not in the lethargic way This Old Dog is. On The Level is the drowsy younger brother of Salad Days standout Chamber of Reflection, sharing its earthy synths and reverb-drenched vocals. Hazier, more hypnotic, and like most sequels – yeah – not as effective, it’s hamstrung by an uncharacteristically grating synth refrain. While not bad, it’s hard to shake the feeling of déjà vu.
Amid this listlessness, flashes of levity shine bright. The juvenile charm of Baby You’re Out is infectious, while DeMarco searches for silver linings on One Another, a refreshingly chipper take on a breakup where “in losing love you gain a friend”. Still, there’s no escaping that This Old Dog finds DeMarco at his most despondent. Where once he would close out albums with a confession of love to his girlfriend, or by inviting fans over to his house for coffee, his subdued delivery on Watching Him Fade Away instead wilts into silence. Time to grow up.
Listen to: Baby You’re Out, One Another, My Old Man
Buy Mac DeMarco - This Old Dog on LP/CD from Norman Records