Mark Mulcahy

The Gus

Mezzotint

Jul 11, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Thom Yorke and Michael Stipe's love for Mark Mulcahy's occasionally revived '80s band Miracle Legion has helped his poetic, often stark, tender songs reach a broader audience over the years. Both took part in the album Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs of Mark Mulcahy, an homage to Mulcahy's talents, back in 2009reminding indie fans that this wasn't just the guy who wrote and performed the theme music for Nickelodeon fave The Adventures of Pete & Pete (though that song, performed by alter-ego band Polaris, is indeed a massive banger).

Mulcahy's path as a songwriter has been a twisting onefrom the opening shot of his debut solo offering Fathering, a master-class in awkward, gorgeous sentiment and longing, through to 2013's exceptional Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You and the less well-regarded 2017 album The Possum in the Driveway. Here, on The Gus, he finds himself in a spot where he's ready to tackle not only the personal, but also the political.

The Gus has a narrativelike a series of short stories set to Mulcahy's chiming, scratched-up guitar it tackles Trump supporters on the downbeat, Tom Waits-waltz of "Mr. Bell," a love gone badly, badly wrong on opener "Wicked World" (which also features a welcome blast of trademark lead guitar from J Mascis), and on the striding, stumbling "Taking Baby Steps" we get the full Mulch vocal treatmentwarped, warbling, and pained as it delivers a tale of friendly forgiveness.

Later, on "Happy Boat," which opens with the damning "You're more interested in escaping than remaining," we're talking loyalty, responsibility, and commitmenthefty, hearty stuff delivered with a remarkable lightness of touch. And on closer "What If I Go Off with Bob" we get a near-comical kiss-off referring to "cryptically trippy" telegrams that double as Dear John letters, before rocking out with a wall of fuzz and feedback that feels like a final fling of frustration vented.

The Gus is a literate, smart, melodious record performed by a vastly overlooked and underrated master of the form. While not as instantly accessible as some of the work by those who celebrate him, his strangely angled view of life is certainly welcome and worthy of that celebration. (www.markmulcahy.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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