For his sixth solo album, Mark Mulcahy takes inspiration from the literary world, in particular the short story form, after reading a collection by the Booker prize winning George Saunders, author of Lincoln In The Bardo. Saying that he has “upped his lyrical game” for the album, there’s certainly an element of storytelling in the songs but in the main it’s just another grand example of Mulcahy’s art.
He opens with the delicious Wicked World, an odd song featuring a lonesome plucked guitar and mournful cello as Mulcahy sings of an ordinary morning transformed by a shooting. Rain Phoenix harmonises with Mulcahy in her role as a disillusioned lover, the song ending with a muted rumble of feedback. Daisy Marie is much more traditional Mulcahy fare with its piping organ and guitar based rhythm as is the Dylan like sneer of I Won’t Tell Anyone But You which ripples along with some inventive percussion. People: Beware meanwhile tumbles along in a topsy-turvy waltz state with some fairground Wurlitzer thrown in for good effect as Mulcahy rails against “the squares” and seems to suggest that some mind alteration is not such a bad thing. Happy Boat is a reverie of sorts, cosseted as it is by dreamlike guitars and Later For The Box returns to the narrative style of Wicked World although here a mysterious mail delivery leads to a rumination worthy of Nicholson Baker.
Mr. Bell is a portrait of an upstanding citizen delivered with a heavy dose of irony. On the face of it it’s not too different from many songs of the sixties and seventies which ripped into the bourgeois lifestyle but the video of the song leaves us in no doubt as to who Mulcahy is pointing his finger at. Add in the grand rock guignol of Taking Baby Steps and the hip swinging amalgamation of Lou Reed and The Stones on What If I Go Off With Bob (which features J Mascis on guitar) and you have an album which goes to show that Mulcahy remains one of the most esoteric and vital artists out there right now.