According to a little known blog called Wikipedia, the term ‘Salad Days’ refers to a point in life in which a person reflects on the better days of their youth. A vegetarian’s mid-life crisis if you will. It’s also the title for Mac DeMarco’s newest album. You may know him for being the penner of many a heartfelt twangy ballad that can tug the heart-strings whilst simultaneously poke fun of anything serious in nature. It’s this kind of humorous, love-sick poetry that has seen DeMarco fall into all our souls with the enthusiasm of bowling a strike for the first time, or losing your virginity.
However, there’s less of the usual Rolling Stones’ strung-out throwback vibes on this record than one would have thought. Gone is the lightly toe-tapping sheen, replaced with a more introspective thought. Instead of downing a Jagerbomb at the club and going to a rock n roll show at the beginning of the movie, the atmosphere of ‘Salad Days’ is closer to staring down the barrel of a stale Coopers ale at the local bowlo, cigarette dangling from your mouth and the occasional cough stirring from your otherwise lifeless body. If the album were a Star Wars character, it’d be post-invasion-of-Cloud-City-by-the-Empire Lando Calrissian.
The point of that very specific, ultimately nerdy metaphor is to point out that DeMarco has lost none of his supreme coolness, what with being the only black guy in the universe, and a killer moustache to boot. But now there’s a dark force looming above him, forcing his hand and causing that ultra-cool demeanour into a space that he’s never been before, a place he definitely doesn’t want to go. If Lando decided to drop the whole Rebel Alliance thing, he definitely would’ve created ‘Salad Days’.
The record starts out innocently enough, with the title track featuring a head-boppin’, shoulder-shakin’, hootin’-tootin’ guitar line, and a chorus of, “La, la la, la la”. Really, the only thing that gives away the emotion is the lyrics-“As I’m gettin’ older/ chip upon my shoulder/ floating through life to roll over and die”.
But progress is essential, and the music and lyrics get only more and more heartfelt and slick with tears. ‘Let Her Go’ is another deceivingly bouncy track, featuring guitar that could soundtrack the frolicking opening of a coming-of-age story starring River Phoenix, and ‘Passing Out the Pieces’ even chucks in a chuckling horn section. But there’s more lyrics like, “When the flower dies/You’ve got to say goodbye/ Let her go”, or “Every time that I turn/ I’m passing out pieces of me/ Dontcha know that nothing comes free?” that makes you think that maybe DeMarco’s going through a rougher time than the music is letting on.
However, this all changes with tracks like ‘Brother’, ‘Let My Baby Stay’ and ‘Go Easy’ providing deadset sadist self-gratification material. These pieces are tortured songs, with the guts spilling out onto the floor, forming milky, plodding sadness genius. These songs are specifically made to be listened to while waiting for the bus after just getting broken up with.
‘Salad Days’ isn’t an album that’s haunting, or brooding, or gothic. It’s a breakup album sure, but it’s for the normal guy, the guy that doesn’t tease their hair or paint their fingernails black. It’s just normal, with normal guitars and normal heartbreak.