Review Summary: Putting himself out to pasture.
The charm of Mac DeMarco’s music pre-2019 is hard to deny. DeMarco of yesteryear is perpetually a little goofy, a little stoned, yet his music flows through your earholes like warm butter. And while some may disagree with this perception, I’ve always felt as though his music continually improved over time, with Another One
and This Old Dog
featuring some of his sleekest production and most thought-provoking songwriting choices to date. The primary issue with those releases is that they don’t do much to expand DeMarco’s reach beyond the niche he’s cultivated for himself. To remain in a singular niche like that promotes artistic stagnancy, which is never a good thing if you wish to remain relevant in the long run.
Surprisingly, Here Comes the Cowboy
doesn’t fill DeMarco’s niche so much as it distances itself from it, to the point where hardly a single molecule of the album could be confused with DeMarco’s previous work. This works to the benefit of some artists; for DeMarco, it’s a disastrous and potentially career-killing failure.
All of DeMarco’s charm is stripped away on this record, the ebullient breeziness of prior records replaced by a narcoleptic lo-fi production job that relies more on synthesizers/keyboards than any other DeMarco album. The man cannot pull off this type of mood for such an extended period, and even the most dedicated fans are going to find it challenging to sit through the record’s almost-50 minute runtime without a few bathroom visits, a lunch break, and a short nap. The Old West connotations of the album’s title are never really explored apart from a couple of joke tracks (including a hidden track at the very end) and a few songs containing what is presumably supposed to be a synth replication of temple blocks. DeMarco just doesn’t commit to anything at all on Here Comes the Cowboy
, leaving the album to sound like a horrific-yet-stunningly-boring mess.
Single “All of Our Yesterdays” is easily the best track on the record because it comes closest to capturing the “classic” DeMarco sound, a sound that is mostly either ignored on this record or stripped down to the point of being unrecognizable. It comes across as either a very misguided move on DeMarco’s part or a very lazy one, and neither one bodes well for the man’s career long-term. To continue producing albums of this quality will earn him quick critical and commercial disfavor, and to return to his older sound now will cement him as a novelty act of sorts. Both journeys have only one possible outcome: complete, unrelenting irrelevance. Time will tell how quickly it comes, but with the release of Here Comes the Cowboy
, such a fate seems inevitable for the quirky king of ‘10s jangle pop. ‘Tis a shame.