Firstly, I had the pleasure of seeing Mac DeMarco play a free show at Dundas Square for NXNE, and let me just say that it was one of the best shows I’ve ever witnessed: there could’ve been more crowdsurfers than standers at one point (not really, but you get the point), Mac DeMarco was happy enough to comply with audience demands to kiss the (male) bassist and a (male) audience member because it was Gay Pride, he tapped on his beer belly like a bongo while crowdsurfing himself, etc. – celluloid moments, all of them. But even then, his limitations as an artist still showed: launching into every guitar solo by shouting and sticking his tongue out got old around the third or fourth time. Studio-wise, without the energy to hide it, those limitations are painfully clear: this is eleven songs that sound exactly the same because the singer exhales every word through a cloud of smoke (cigarette smoke though; he doesn’t smoke weed); the guitar tone is always set to “sunny”; the guitar riffs are always hooky intervals; everything is the same tempo. I suppose “Chamber of Reflection,” because the riff is played on a synth, and “Let My Baby Stay,” with its gentle percussion like raindrops falling on your roof, are exceptions and thus, highlights.
Those two tracks aside, the album’s best songs are all on the opening stretch of tracks. “Salad Days” has a juxtaposition of one of the most optimistic scat-sung melodies in the chorus lifted straight out of the Kinks’ “Picture Book” with the verses that are anything but, and the melody in the verses are a goodie, too. “Blue Boy” has a good bass fill that will help you recognize the tune from others such as “Goodbye Weekend.” The guitar riff coming in during the choruses of “Brother” is the album’s best, and the vocal harmonies help elevate them further; the climax is half-assed, however, where everything gets louder without getting more meaningful in any sort of way. “Let Her Go” has everything the previous three songs had going for it as well as being the album’s emotional centerpiece.
But let’s be honest here, Canadian pride aside, I don’t really see why this man/group is selling out venues or getting so much critical acclaim. At the end of the day, Salad Days is music for people who weren’t there for the 60s and are too lazy to do their own research. The same can be said about the new Circulatory System album and the new Tame Impala one whenever it comes out and other mediocrity that took the recycling lessons you learned at a young age alarmingly seriously and don’t bother bringing anything new to the table.