Mac Demarco’s ‘This Old Dog’ and why this dude is just so hard to hate
I’ve tried to hate Mac Demarco since my little brother showed me “Ode to Viceroy” during my junior year of college. I was both pissed off that I hadn’t heard Mac earlier, that I had been beaten to yet another up and coming artist by my little brother, and that I liked it so much.
I was both pissed off that I hadn’t heard Mac earlier, that I had been beaten to yet another up and coming artist by my little brother, and that I liked it so much.
It seemed so easy to make fun of, “look at this quirky indie Canadian guy with the fake Irish/Italian name making jazzy stoner slacker rock about cigarette brands.”
I tried and tried to resist as I went back and sifted through Demarco’s catalog, eager to find something to prove my thesis that the indie scene was propping up another mediocre white dude. But alas, to my horror I found myself… enjoying it.
The airy guitar melodies, the lyrics about respecting women and chilling really hard, the ever-present cloud of weed smoke, it was all too chill to be true.
Glance at at one of his social media profiles and you’ll see a litany of self-deprecating hashtags and ironic posturing that make Mac Demarco appear as another snarky ass guy in their mid-20’s. Sometimes this persona seemed at odds with his songwriting, especially at its most male ally moments, like on “Treat Her Better” off 2014’s Salad Days, Demarco tells anonymous scene dude to treat his girl with some respect!
“Treat her better, boy/
If havin’ her at your side’s something you enjoy/
If havin’ her in your life’s really so important to you now”
This is obviously refreshing to hear in the hyper-masculine indie scene (the song may have been written in response to a former band member abusing his girlfriend) but coming from the guy who takes pictures in front of Buddha with the hashtag #iloveblowingcock, makes it slightly difficult to take him seriously.
For every “Treat Her Better” there’s a “Goodbye Weekend” where Demarco sings of all the lost fun of the weekend past (“Macky’s been a bad bad boy”!) and how he doesn’t like Mondays.
The two halves of Mac Demarco, the sensitive guy who wants his friends to treat their girlfriends better and the party dude who just wants to fuckin’ chill and smoke Viceroys and make homoerotic jokes, have been at odds on Mac’s previous work.
Obviously there’s no problem with having both serious and more satirical subject matter, but it was just hard to take Mac Demarco completely seriously on his earlier work, even if it was catchy and cool as hell.
So when Mac released his third studio album This Old Dog last week I thought maybe this was my last opportunity to jump off the Mac Demarco bandwagon.
Mac was just gonna make a carbon copy of Salad Days and I could safely make fun of him from my perch on contrarian mountain. To put it plainly, I was fully ready to not fuck with this album.
This is not what happened. Mac Demarco released an interesting, complex, extremely well-written, and different album with This Old Dog. I should’ve known when I heard the single “My Old Man” as Mac uses a synth and acoustic guitar while singing about his relationship with his father.
Mac revealed in a long feature from earlier in his career for Pitchfork that his father was an addict and his mom booted him out of the house when Mac was five.
On “My Old Man” Mac Demarco takes a look in the mirror and isn’t exactly thrilled with what he sees, someone that resembles his own dad.
“Look how old and cold and tired and lonely he’s become/
Not until you see/
Mac sings over a metronomic xylophone-sounding thingy and stripped-down acoustic guitar. Mac Demarco has never let us in like this and frankly it’s moving stuff.
On This Old Dog, there’s no doubting Mac as a serious artist. In terms of lyrical content, there’s no battle between two sides of his personality, no odes to the weekend, no sponsored content for cigarette brands.
There is much more raw emotion on this record. “Sister” is a really somber (I had to make sure I was still listening to Mac Demarco) song running just over a minute describing the sudden pain of a breakup.
This breakup, or at least relationship troubles of some sort, pops up a lot on this record. After making his girlfriend cry, Mac muses “never thought some silly songs could go and hurt someone” on “Still Beating”.
Mac Demarco is making a record about getting older, the discontents of partying too much, and hurting the person you love, and it all sounds really good.
Musically, Demarco switched it up on this record as well. It’s the most stripped-down version of Mac Demarco we’ve gotten so far.
There’s more acoustic guitar, more synthesizers and keyboards, less of that surfy, Jimmy Buffet on a pound of weed style guitar melodies that we’ve become familiar with throughout Mac’s catalog.
With his stripped-down sound and more personal lyrics, Mac Demarco has made an incredibly real album about being in your mid-20’s in 2017.
There’s crazy shit going on out there, but Mac urges us,
“Don’t let the world outside the windowpane get to your head/
Hopefully make some sense of all this shit before you’re dead”