When you have a track record of putting drumsticks up your bum, wearing Michael Jackson masks and generally being the most lovable goof in the world, it’s hard for people to remember that you don’t feel ace all the time. ‘This Old Dog’ still has whispers of Mac DeMarco’s usual chirpy guitar licks and strutting rhythms - but beyond that, it goes deeper and sees our protagonist at his most mellow and introspective. There’s no referring to himself as ‘Macky’, no dicking around with pitch-shifted voiceovers or giving out his home address. For the only release Mac has put out that doesn’t feature his face on the cover, it’s the closest to him we’ve ever been.
It’s pretty disconcerting when the harmonica kicks in for ‘A Wolf Who Wears Sheeps’ Clothes’, but it works, giving an Americana twinge to Mac’s crooning. Even more (literally) progressive is ‘Moonlight on the River’: it’s over seven minutes long - a third of the length of the whole of ‘Another One’. With its War on Drugs style guitar and forlorn acceptance of death (‘there’s moonlight on the river / everybody dies’) it’s shocking at first, but is stunningly beautiful.
Maybe for some fans it’ll be a step too far from the happy-go-lucky icon they’ve etched. But, for the majority, it’s a blessing, and a wake-up call that maybe we’ve collectively treated him as a kind of Sad Clown character. Mac pines at one point, “I never thought some silly songs could ever go and hurt someone”. Yet, it’s this collection of tracks that’s filled with the most hurt and emotive power. ‘Sister’, a spellbinding mix between a Julian Lennon and John Lennon track, is the LP’s most poignant point, hinting at some sort of personal, painful loss.