Normally, I would not have any interest in reviewing a Mac DeMarco album. In fact, I usually try to avoid all the hoopla for the sake of my own sanity. For years I remained on the outskirts of his ascent to the status of indie rock god, but something deep down inside intrigued me to dive all the way in for this roll-out. I’ve always been really turned off by this obsessive worshipping of him from men in my mutual circles of friends as this untouchable savior of indie rock – it’s riddled in a mild layer of toxic masculinity even though these are often the “nice guys” that are worthy of being in your life (until proven otherwise).
There are so many hardworking women in the scene that are criminally overlooked, but the point of this critique is not to spark the fire of the ongoing battle of the sexes that pollutes the music industry. DeMarco was previously unaware of the similarities between his record and Mitski’s 2018 album Be the Cowboy (or that she even existed for that matter), but the brief controversy that ensued caused him to recognize the ways in which he takes up space.
He’s always been considered a sensitive songwriter with a strong sense of self-awareness that permeates through his chill, laidback music which warmly provides the comfort of a security blanket. DeMarco tends to come off as non-threatening with an unpretentious persona that is showcased by a series of hilarious stunts that gross people out, but never enough to completely turn them away. On his last album, This Old Dog, DeMarco was striding toward a path of upward growth as he walked us through the complicated relationship with his father while also refining his signature sound. Here Comes the Cowboy is more or less representative of him hitting a stunted state and tumbling with the weeds.
Throughout the promo cycle for this project, DeMarco frequently emphasized that it isn’t really about cowboys. He recently told Entertainment Weekly that his intention was to use the imagery of cowboys as a form of escapism even though he “knows absolutely nothing about cowboys.” In a press release, he referred to cowboy as a “term of endearment” that he uses for people that he knows. Even though DeMarco claims that the people from his hometown of Duncan, Canada “sincerely wear cowboy hats and do cowboy activities,” this project is not about Western Canadians. But based on what I’ve heard on all 13 tracks, it doesn’t seem like Here Comes the Cowboy is really about anything because DeMarco doesn’t have much to say at all.
Listening to this album is like drinking a beer in the shower – meaning, that if you’re all about that life then you’ll love it, but the rest of us can’t be convinced that this is a cool thing to do. So however you feel about shower beer will ultimately determine how this album hits you. It’s bland like BBQ without seasoning. I truly value simplicity and the concept of working smarter not harder, but this material feels a little stiff and lifeless as DeMarco flatly sings along while strumming his guitar. The only sign of existence is the faint sound of rain tapping on the windows of his garage in Los Angeles heard in the background of some of the tracks. There’s no meat left on these bones, it’s all bare and collecting dust in the corner.
In a cover story for Huck Magazine, DeMarco openly discussed his mental health struggles and the many conflicts of his existence in the music world. While his identity as a wanderer closely reflects his true reality, more than anything, it revealed the fabrication of his carefree attitude, an image that has ultimately been constructed by devout fans who overlooked self-destructive antics in relation to alcohol consumption as a respectable form of rebellion. Whether or not he agrees, this misperception has been somewhat harmful given the unhealthy lifestyle that this reckless behavior promotes. With that in mind, Here Comes the Cowboy could easily come off as a cry for help.
At one point in the interview, DeMarco says “I just wanna make music, hide in my little garage and I’ll just die someday.” I didn’t read that as a suicidal thought, but more of a painfully relatable sentiment shared by many creatives that are struggling with their own demons. In reality, not caring about anything, especially your own well-being, is not cool – the thing is, DeMarco doesn’t not care. “Preoccupied” seems to be a commentary on how everyone consumes themselves by staying busy. “Opened your mind, filled it with bullshit,” he sings. “Locked up your heart, without even knowing it.”
The genuine love that DeMarco expresses for his longtime partner, Kiera McNally on the ballad “K” is deeply moving. There’s also “Heart To Heart,” a touching tribute to the late Mac Miller that shines with a minimal arrangement of instruments. There are a few instances when you feel a small burst of energy from DeMarco crawling out of the cracks and into the sunlight. “Finally Alone” is the closest thing to an anthem for cowboys as he narrates the tale of a millennial’s adventure riding solo in the big bad city, and then flips the script on “Hey Cowgirl.”
DeMarco gets super funky on the track “Choo Choo,” but I’m not sure that anyone needs to hear him repeatedly mimic a whistling train for two and a half minutes. For a hot second, it even sounds like he’s moo-ing on the acoustic psych song “Skyless Moon.” The way DeMarco lets out a triumphant “yee-haw” on the closing track might be the one moment where you can truly tell that he enjoyed making this thing. “Hope you had your fun/ all those days are over now,” he slowly articulates on the somber song “Little Dogs March.”
Overall, Here Comes the Cowboy is an album packed with good intentions, but will likely bore you to sleep before you even come close to finishing it.