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Are We Having Fun Yet?

Forget “Breaking Bad” for a moment: Never has cooking up a batch of methamphetamine sounded so tragically funny as on “Cooking Up Something Good,” the opening track from Mac DeMarco’s debut full-length 2.

“Daddy’s in the basement/ Cookin’ up something fine/ While Rick’s out on the pavement/ Flippin’ it for dimes,” DeMarco croons casually over a funk-lite, chicka-chicka guitar rhythm. The infectious song rolls along for two-and-a-half minutes while the wobbly sound of a warped record provides a vaguely seasick backbone.

First, yes, DeMarco’s first album is called 2. That’s how this jokester rolls. Deal with it. Second, and seriously, y’all: 2 is the real deal, an out-of-nowhere underground masterpiece.

Listeners wise enough to catch onto the 22-year-old Canadian songwriter’s recently released Rock and Roll Nightclub EP were rewarded with a woozy batch of pomo-pop, a collection of soft-rock elevator jams that reveled in silly lyrical couplets and manipulated guitar sounds. 2 takes the concept to the next logical level, abandoning the Ariel Pink-circa-Doldrums-inspired lo-fi fuzz in favor of Ariel Pink-circa-Before Today-inspired cleanness.

Yes, Pink must inevitably be mentioned; the trash-pop prince of the 2000s laid the groundwork on which the young DeMarco and his contemporaries continue to build. But unlike other weirdo bedroom acolytes, DeMarco doesn’t ever allow himself to get stuck in a sonic or thematic k-hole. Though the heavy irony is obvious, the craftsman is obviously too enamored with his creations to let them slide into the abyss.

“It’s kinda weird, people get turned off immediately, and they’re like, ‘Oh this is all ironic; whatever, they’re just making fun of [the music],'” DeMarco says.

But there’s a layer of sadness beneath the sparkly pop veneer, a seedy underbelly that DeMarco approaches with an eerie detachment not dissimilar to David Lynch. Like Lynch’s work, 2 is full of vaguely unsettling references (the word “daddy” pops up way too much) and is often hilarious and terrifying at once.

Much of 2‘s dark, weird character comes from effects like the aforementioned warped-record wobble; DeMarco tremendously enjoys messing around in post-production.

“It’d probably be different if I came from a band where we were doing recordings live,” he says.

Instead, given the freedom that comes with being your own boss, DeMarco says he “sped [the tape] up a little bit, slowed [it] down. Some of the backing vocals are sped up or slowed down… I used a bunch of weird chords, too.” In many cases, he sang too high or low and then pitched his vocals up or down to match the key of a particular song, a tactic that gives those songs a druggy, disorienting air.

Perhaps the greatest testament to DeMarco’s musical ability is that, on a pure sonic level, 2 is a blast.

“Any kind of music can be fun, as long as it’s presented in the right way,” says DeMarco. His is proof positive; despite the curious lyrical themes, these tunes are ebullient odes to the power of pop.

DeMarco’s live show, where he performs with a backing band and plays up a stoned lounge singer personality, has begun turning heads; Pitchfork reported on a recent Brooklyn show that featured DeMarco “slipping bits of chatter into the tunes, warning us a guitar solo was coming up, or hiccuping ‘Bring it back now’ before a chorus.”

Still, “I don’t think we do anything particularly that crazy when we’re playing live,” he tells Flagpole.

“A lot of bands today are kind of, ‘We’re gonna do the songs, and act like cool guys [and] look at our feet’—real serious onstage. It’s a show; it’s supposed to be fun. And if I’m not having fun, nobody else is probably gonna be having fun, either.”

He admits, “Sometimes you go a little crazy, and weird shit happens. But for the most part, I just feel pretty comfortable up there, and I wanna have fun.”


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