Who let This Old Dog out?Captured Tracks, 2017
8.0 / 10
Just fresh off 27 years of existence, Mac DeMarco is already feeling old. Or at least that’s what he’s saying on his new album, This Old Dog. DeMarco’s already called This Old Dog his “acoustic” album. That tag does apply truthfully to many of the songs here, but Mac also seems to be implying a greater maturity to his latest album. And it rings true. While it’s easy to think of Mac as a slacker troubadour, who does crazy things on stage, he’s actually a gentle soul. With This Old Dog, he lets out his emotions. It’s an earnest statement on family, love, and self-reflection. A chamber of self-reflection if you will.
DeMarco barks up a lot of trees on This Old Dog. However, a main theme of the album is his estranged relationship with his father. DeMarco’s father, an alcoholic and drug abuser, left his family while Mac was very young. Although they’ve talked various times throughout the years, it’s not a healthy relationship. His father’s image is also something Mac doesn’t want to see reflecting back at him from the mirror. This serves as the inspiration behind the album’s opening song, “My Old Man”.
The song has a chill acoustic melody but also harbors a melancholy feeling. Mac thinks back on all his crazy antics while looking in the mirror. He sings, “There’s a price tag hanging off of having all that fun.” His partying ways are taking a toll on his physical and mental well being. It’s aging him. It’s also making him into a person he doesn’t want to become — his father. It isn’t the last time that DeMarco’s dad is the subject of his song.
His father also turns up on “On The Level”. Musically, it sounds very close to “Chamber of Reflection” with its synth melody while lyrically it sounds like a man-to-man conversation between Mac and his dad. On the album’s final song, “Watching Him Fade Away”, Mac expands on this idea as he debates whether he should call his father. He sings, “Haven’t got the guts to call him up/ Walk around as if you never cared in the first place/ But if you never call you’ll end up stuck/ Without another chance to tell him off right to his face.” Pretty heavy, right?
Aside from songs about his father, Mac also pens many about love and realizing his dreams. On “One Another”, Mac uses a swinging, mellow country rock melody while singing about the advantages to moving on from a toxic relationship. Mac seemingly becomes Elvis Costello on “Dreams From Yesterday”, exposing a new side we haven’t previously seen. The song deals with how accomplishing your dreams can have an adverse effect by leaving you without further purpose. Hopefully, Mac hasn’t stopped dreaming just yet. “Dreams From Yesterday” proves this old dog is capable of learning new tricks. And This Old Dog proves he’s currently one of indie’s best songwriters.