Album Review: Mac DeMarco, ‘Salad Days’

It felt like Mac DeMarco became the slacker kids’ go-to-guy overnight. His slightly obscure, yet undeniably accessible brand of indie jangle pop was left-of-centre enough to be the “in” thing amongst people in the know whilst still being enjoyed on a more superficial level by the general public. This was proven on his recent visit to Australia, which saw many people raise the infamous shoe to Mac and co. during their Meredith set. A larrikin hillbilly singing romanticised songs about cigarettes and methamphetamines and overly enthusiastic covers of ’70s tracks just seemed to be the right level of piss-take that people were looking for. While Salad Days doesn’t represent a monumental shift in sound for DeMarco, he certainly does enough to maintain the interest of the listener. The title track sees the return of the twisted tremolo guitar tone, which has become such a distinctive feature of all of DeMarco’s work, and is drenched in a trippy introspective ambiance forged by the opening lyrics, “As I’m gettin’ older/chip upon my shoulder/rollin’ through life/to roll over and die.” Perhaps a consequence of previous tongue-in-cheek tracks is that one can’t help but pay close attention to the lyrical content of the album. By DeMarco’s own admission, Salad Days is a more serious effort than previous releases, Rock and Roll Night Club and 2. Tracks such as ‘Let My Baby Stay’ are simple, candid expressions of emotion; perhaps the equivalent of ‘Together’ from 2, where the lyrical context of the record allows the track to be far more effective in communicating a sombre message. ‘Let Her Go’ is the tropical crowd pleaser that this otherwise pensive record needs. Without being an overtly pop number, it provides the uplifting mood reminiscent of that sunny afternoon in the Supernatural Amphitheatre where many a fan was made. The added instrumentation on tracks like ‘Passing Out Pieces’ and ‘Chamber of Reflection’ complements the well-established guitar layers of earlier tracks. The eerie keyboards call to mind tracks such as ‘Nothing That Has Happened…’ and ‘She Just Won’t Believe Me’ from Tame Impala’s Lonerism, and are a welcome addition to what is otherwise a familiar soundscape throughout the record. Some will herald Salad Days as a more mature Mac DeMarco, which may very well be true. Whether or not this is a compliment or a critique is more uncertain as much of the charm of his previous releases – in particular sophomore record, 2 – was consequent of the seemingly immature persona DeMarco embodied. Most likely, the answer lies somewhere in between. 3.5 out of 5 starsReview by Brendan Wrigley 

March 31st 2014
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