Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips was recently quoted as saying that “it’s better to make ridiculous music than to make boring music”. Suffice it to say BC born Edmonton raised Canadian singer-songwriter Mac Demarco has not filled This Old Dog, his third full length release in five years, with ridiculous music. Cheesy keyboards and ’80’s drum machine beats feel gimmicky and tire quickly behind Demarco’s mediocre mid tempo acoustic musings, most of which would not stand out on your average open mic night. Demarco’s post-slacker millennial poster-boy clown act is not dissimilar to geriatric baby boomer Jimmy Buffet and his Margaritaville parrothead empire, it’s all about the shtick. Shtick sells records. Shtick fills seats. And in an era where it’s increasingly difficult to grab even the slightest bit of attention let alone the full 15 minutes, Demarco has opted to spend more time mugging with that familiar shit eating grin of his dreaming up even goofier ways to keep being noticed than on making any kind of meaningful music that has a shelf life longer than the current hip fad of the month.
Their first album in three years since re-imagining The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper with a motley crew of freaks and fwends, Oczy Mlody is the 14th Flaming Lips studio album and 20th overall in a career spanning 34 years since their inception in 1983 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Best described as an atmospheric symphony of chill, Oczy Mlody is more an elaborate musical composition for full band in 12 movements than a mere collection of songs presented over two sides of a standard rock n roll album. Imagine the HAL 9000 computer from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey attempting to decipher the Dark Side Of The Moon without rise or crescendo building solely upon a bleak emotional landscape of enveloping sound. An album that boldly states, “There should be unicorns!”, this is certainly music to listen to while hunting for faeries and witches and wizards to kill when your not too busy listening to the frogs with demon eyes.
Austin, Texas indie darlings Spoon have been making their own brand of arty experimental indie pop for close to 25 years now. Centred around longtime band-members Britt Daniel on lead vocals and guitar along with drummer Jim Eno, their 9th album in 21 years, Hot Thoughts demonstrates a sharp shift away from the arty and more directly towards the pop. Side 1 and Side 2 are divided equally into 5 parts, one fifth art four fifths pop with each side concluding with the longer artier pieces. By far the two most interesting tracks on the album are the closers, side one’s “Pink Up” along with side two’s sax heavy five minute instrumental “Us” which would not have sounded out of place on either one of Bowie’s triumphant Berlin period albums Low and Heroes. What Hot Thoughts suffers most from is a complete and utter identity crisis. The band went so far as to bring in indie rock god Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, The Go-Betweens, Bright Eyes, Conor Oberst, The Shins) as the albums officially credited “sequence adviser” to help make sense of these disparate tracks in search of a home. Perhaps the simplest solution would have been to flesh out the musical topography over two different albums instead of trying to jam it all into one neat little Hot Thoughts box because, contrary to what that old bearded hippie philosopher once said, the whole is not always greater than the sum of its parts. Roll over Aristotle and tell Spoon the news.