Mac DeMarco’s third release, Salad Days, is undeniably a peak in both sonic and lyrical maturity. In spite of his continued tenuously crustpunk visual, long gone – it would seem – are the days of tape-deck-pitch-shifting tomfoolery in Rock and Roll Nightclub, and quickly disappearing are the ethereal non-realities (‘Dreaming’, ‘The Stars Keep On Calling My Name’) or abstract nostalgias (‘Cooking Up Something Good’) of 2. Maintaining the characteristic jangly lead riffs and rough rhythm guitar that gave Mac and co relative cult following in 2012, the tracks of 2014 are evidently from the same group as before, but with a much less lo-fi/DIY aesthetic. Though recording means are largely the same, Mac’s sound has undeniably become more polished. In spite of supposed minor pressure from Captured Tracks to write ‘an upbeat single’ and to get the finished album out fast–leading to some unsatisfied finishes; the album is still his most ‘done’.
Salad Days begins contemplative: ‘As I’m getting older / chip upon my shoulder, / rolling through life, / you roll over and die’. (And chorus:) ‘Oh mama, acting like my life’s already over / Oh, dear, act your age and try another year’. The lyrics to title track, ‘Salad Days’ are explicitly thoughtful and thought out – something that only emerges in the sentimental spoken end of ‘Still Together’ addressing of girlfriend Kiki, in 2. Following number ‘Blue Boy’ alludes roughly to the time-old metaphor of the blue-eyed boy who can do no wrong, yet when Mac adopts this persona it is with a nostalgic eye to closing the affair. He is maturing throughout the record, and both implicitly and explicitly informs listener fans. Musically, he borrows from 2 (compare riffs in ‘Ode To Viceroy’ and ‘Goodbye Weekend’) but instead of riffing up and down scales, he builds something out of it. Indeed, this is a record that building and advancing. Going from largely audience-less in the States gigs pre-signing with CT, Mac now sells out shows on a global scale. Such a change both required and provoked a harder self-definition, emerging almost every track of Salad Days. In ‘Chamber of Reflection’, Mac croons: ‘Spend some time away, / getting ready for the day / You’re born again. / Spend some time alone, / Understand that soon / You’ll run with better men. / Alone again’. Though confessed to be vaguely parodical of the rituals of the Stonemasons, there is an undercurrent of Mac’s own personal reflection. Salad Days is as close to a documentation of growing-up as an album could be.
Dependent on one’s opinions of Mac, it is perfectly feasible to criticise Salad Days as either too much the same in its rehashing of similar musical stylings, or as the opposite; as losing the rough-and-ready touch of the previous lo-fi albums. However, more is deserved from Salad Days. There is development in his latest release, and a removal from the potentially unappealing jokiness of bygone releases. If the group is to continue in the same way as Salad Days has done so far; developing out of and yet staying true to form simultaneously, then fans have a vested interest in keeping to the musical developments that document a very interesting progression of a multifaceted set of musicians.By Jack Davis