Lately Captured Tracks has made a case for developing their own stable of artists without sniping bands from elsewhere and piggybacking off of what a band has done in the past (an act they accuse other indies of doing). They want their talent to be their talent, homegrown and unique to the underground landscape. So far they’ve done a fine job with this lofty endeavor, and now with Mac DeMarco, they’ve even got their own Ariel Pink. Peer into the shadowy eyes of DeMarco on the cover of his debut album, Rock and Roll Night Club, and you know you’re dealing with an individual. Maybe one not all that unique, DeMarco poses like a androgynous street walker smearing lipstick across his face, a “Nice Price” sticker is affixed on the sleeve, and songs evoke decadent late night behavior befitting a solo drifter in the late ’70s. Throw in the skits that vamp on imagined radio stations like “96.7 The Pipe” and “106.2 Breeze FM” and you’re looking at a musician using pure nostalgia as his template.
Unlike Mr. Pink who warps nostalgia into sub-hypnogogic muck and hyper-inflated spectacle, DeMarco only stones nostalgia a bit using woozy rhythms and a narcotic glaze which has the effect of a faded Polaroid. While the lecherous sides of Lou Reed and the urbane personas of Bowie serve as DeMarco’s aesthetic heroes, the songs here evoke something deeper and more obscure, like private press folkies left to bake in a fluorescent glow. This can easily be seen through the noir breeze of “Moving Like Mike,” where DeMarco even dials down his voice an octave to add to the creepy groove. The other side of DeMarco is undeniably borne out of soft-rock gold, even if those slinky guitar lines and lounge lizard lyrics (“baby” is sung to the nth degree here) are doused in cheap cologne and cigarette smoke. “She’s Really All I Need” is half Syd Barrett, half Gerry Rafferty, a hybrid of styles which veers carefully through manic psychedelia and honest to goodness radio pop. When this sphinx character falls into that convergence is when DeMarco truly shows his stripes. He has the innate ability to harpy bits and pieces from subconscious memories of records lost and scatter them in the studio to come up with something wholly incomparable (at least among his modern peers). Though Rock and Roll Night Club may not be the most original of records, it does take on nostalgia from a new angle. Were it not for the 2012 stamp on the back, it could exist in many a decade and will likely remain timeless years from now when being a reckless but talented studio-bred singer-songwriter is the new black.
Kevin J. Elliott