Mac DeMarco – ‘This Old Dog’ Review

Canadian songwriter swaps his goofy, fun-guy reputation for some intense soul-searching

From the outside, Mac DeMarco has always been nothing but a baseball cap-donning, gap-toothed prankster. Prone to fart jokes and wacky, ironic Coldplay covers in the middle of one of his shows, the 27-year-old seems like someone who’d rather poke fun at himself than take life seriously. This first impression, however, ignores the sweet, sentimental side of his records, a side that threatens to swallow whole his third album ‘This Old Dog’.

Moving from the outskirts of New York to the bustle of LA in 2016, DeMarco had his first serious chunk of time off since the whirlwind success and subsequent non-stop tour of 2012 album ‘2’. This led to a bout of reflection, a chance to take stock of his place in the world and what was happening around him. Two things emerged from the much-needed self- absorption: a deep appreciation of his friends and family, and a realisation that he’d near enough ‘made it’, career-wise, and that he was at a loose end.

The latter springs up in the record’s ghoulish, seven-minute penultimate track ‘Moonlight On The River’, which captures the unease and suspicion of being comfortable in your mid-twenties. What starts as a mesh of lovely, lush chords morphs into a mad echo chamber. DeMarco sends shrill screams through his effects pedals, like he’s climbing up the walls. ‘This Old Dog’ is mostly a gorgeous, perfectly paced record for lazy days outside. But every so often a moment of madness slips in, and this gives the Canadian an edge over his peers.

Sweet, short-lived songs ‘Sister’ and ‘Watching Him Fade Away’ end each side of the record. The first is a simple tribute to DeMarco’s half-sister; the second is a diary entry as he watches his absent father struggle with illness. It’s clear by now that DeMarco can conquer two different forms. He can be the good-time, goofy guy with a reputation that precedes him, or he can be an earnest songwriter with serious bite. ‘This Old Dog’ sees him conquering this more mature side, without even a shade of boring.