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REVIEW: Mac DeMarco – ‘Here Comes The Cowboy’ (Mac’s Record Label)


In a sentence:

Lacking the effortless charm of previous albums, Mac DeMarco’s latest LP ‘Here Comes The Cowboy’ sounds disappointingly sterile despite some wonderful moments.

The roll-out for Mac DeMarco’s fourth full-length album got overshadowed by a minor social media storm when it was announced around two months ago. Some felt that its title, Here Comes The Cowboy, meant that DeMarco was attempting to copy the themes of Mitski’s 2018 masterpiece Be The Cowboy, to muscle in on artistic territory which she had very recently explored and made her own. Not only that, its lead single ‘Nobody’ shared the same title as the star track from her album. The Canadian proceeded to put his foot in it by blithely claiming that he hadn’t even heard Be The Cowboy – which seems somewhat incredible, given that it was probably the most acclaimed album of 2018 and that he and Mitski share the same management.

Whatever the real reason for it – and to be honest, it’s hard to ascribe calculated cynicism to a personality as affable and fundamentally likeable as DeMarco – it’s at least lazy on his part. While that online kerfuffle ultimately amounts to a whole lot of not very much, it’s unfortunate that it should inadvertently highlight the exact problem with Here Comes The Cowboy – it sounds oddly lifeless.

Deliberately recorded very quickly, and as ever produced and performed entirely by DeMarco himself, the result is a batch of songs that require the listener to pay extremely close attention, or it simply passes by without making any impression. The most energy that Here Comes The Cowboy can summon up is a minute-long outro at the end of the slow, sing-along shuffle of closer ‘Baby Bye Bye’, a soup of funk and various silly noises.

Music video for ‘Nobody’

When it works, Here Comes The Cowboy is very pretty and rewarding. Using the well-worn metaphor of the cowboy, roving the wide-open plains of American wildernesses, as a cipher for a longing for freedom and autonomy, for starting anew, the plaintive ‘Skyless Moon’ and the laconic, reflective ‘K’, where DeMarco mutters/sings “as the years blow by, baby / the more I come to know myself”, see theme and content match. The gentle, twilit melancholy of ‘All Of Our Yesterdays’, which updates Mac’s stoner-rock template very subtly, is one of the most beautiful songs he’s ever written. The lugubrious jam of ‘Nobody’, with its funereal horns in the background of a sparsely arranged track of loping, plucked guitar, is another low-key treat.

However, these moments of pay-out are few and far between compared to previous albums, and make you feel frustrated that Mac DeMarco couldn’t have made the whole record sound a bit peppier, or at least worked at it a little longer. Opening track ‘Here Comes The Cowboy’ literally sees him muttering the words of the title for three minutes, to the point you think he might actually be taking the piss. ‘Preoccupied’ sounds like it might give the game away as to what’s wrong with the album as a whole. The attempted Jonathan Richman-esque cutesiness of ‘Choo Choo’, featuring an actual toy train whistle, is simply childish instead of adorable. All of these moments, and more besides, simply lack the effortless sparkle and shimmer that made Mac DeMarco’s best songs so beguiling.

Music video for ‘On The Square’

Ultimately, Here Comes The Cowboy sounds too studied in its attempt to come across as easy-going and unseriousness. Whatever effortlessness graced the likes of Salad Days and This Old Dog has evaporated, leaving an album that sounds rather laboured in places, as if its creator is suddenly acutely aware of his status as a slacker icon. While some moments are undeniably pretty, too much of it sounds sterile. Down the line, it’s hard to imagine that very much of Here Comes The Cowboy will be adorning Mac DeMarco’s setlists, and a creative overhaul may be in order. (5/10) (Ed Biggs)

Listen to Here Comes The Cowboy by Mac DeMarco here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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