Mac DeMarco, finally, is lifting the brim of his ever-present “Seattle” thrift store baseball cap and, maybe, ready to look us in the eye for some real talk. Keeping him from winking the entire time, though, is another problem.
Earlier in the year, DeMarco dropped a mysteriously marketed EP, “Rock and Roll Nightclub,” upon Internet music nerds, sending along hazy pictures of himself painting himself in rouge in front of a broken mirror. DeMarco isn’t a drag queen. He is a trickster who’s currently subsumed in a world of glam rock and sleazy blues.
DeMarco’s “Nightclub” evoked Bowie, Bolan and Reed in entrancing ways, playing a Quaalude-addled mix of jazz and rock perfect for a David Lynch film.
On “Mac DeMarco 2,” out Oct. 16 on the Captured Tracks label, the now Montreal-based songwriter has uptuned the vocals and guitars that be-sleazed “Nightclub,” bringing the Canadian out of his subterranean lair. But he’s not yet ready for fresh air.
Vocal manipulation on “Nightclub” conjured the doomy, long bass notes of Scott Walker stuck in ’70s-era Times Square. With “Mac DeMarco 2,” DeMarco is firmly walking Lou Reed’s streets populated by drug addicts and pushers, prostitutes and pimps, and loving every moment. Riding high hats, walking bass lines and monotone guitar leads reanimate well-worn Velvet Underground influences, and a tinniness overwhelming most of the tracks worships Reed’s solo works.
There’s swagger here that is entirely welcome. DeMarco, one hopes, could be a rock figure whose confidence isn’t unwarranted (think dude-filled metal bands) or annoying (think Black Lips). The spunk of a skate punk is the first image of DeMarco, a snarky teen type ready to poke the world in its judging eye. DeMarco’s live shows are known to fall apart at the end of a liquor bottle, paying audience be damned. But on album closer “Still Together,” an acoustic Latin-inspired ballad, we glimpse DeMarco’s possible maturation.
The key to DeMarco’s talent is best evident on “My Kind of Woman.” A great performer, a great stylist — which is what DeMarco really is — can invigorate tired, simple words. How DeMarco sings lines like “You’re making me crazy/You’re really driving me mad/That’s alright with me/It’s really no fuss/As long as you’re next to me/Just the two of us” paints a scene that the listener wants to fully decorate with old lingerie hanging on lamp shades, cigarette burned furniture and empty bottle of Dugan’s Gin.
But I’m convinced this is just a world DeMarco inhabits only for now. Soon, he’ll be onto the next one. And we should be ready, because he’ll make that captivating as well.