Highlights: I Taketh Away, Everybody Hustles Leo, She Makes The World Turn Backwards, Where’s The Indifference Now?
This is tough songwriting. The album doesn’t sound like a smooth flow of melodic ideas, but it’s always articulate and always self-assured. Hardly a surprise, of course, since Mark Mulcahy is not new to this music thing. And yet there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s his first album since the horribly untimely death of his wife in 2008 – which makes this new urgency, this songwriting drive all the more poignant and impressive.
Miracle Legion was the name of Mark’s original band that semi-bothered the by-then-weary jangle pop genre back in the 80’s and 90’s. While Me And Mr. Ray is a sweet enough acoustic pop album (until the inevitable R.E.M.-esque tedium sets in), Miracle Legion were nothing to be too excited about. I’d argue that Mark’s solo albums have a lot more life to them, and none of his past efforts has quite as much life as this new album.
The quirkily titled Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You is primarily a life-affirming album. You hear that in the whimsical (and slightly annoying) opening of “He’s A Magnet”, the joyful whistling of “Poison Candy Heart” (which combines the ‘candy’ tune with the ‘poison’ lyrics) and the reggae-ish (if unnecessary) groove of “My Rose Colored Friend”. Sonically, I count just one downbeat moment on the whole album, The Postal Service-like “Bailing Out On Everything Again”, and even that one isn’t especially slow. Not too inspired either, but not slow. Mostly, these songs are Mark singing exciting and often excitable melodies to lush, expressive guitar rhythms. Gets addictive after a while.
The lyrics are fittingly dark in places, but the album has a very freewheeling vibe to it. Mark throws in a clever line here, a rotten Bible putdown there, a waltzy lilt here, an anthemic verse there. The brilliant anthemic verses are the reason why “Where’s The Indifference Now?” is so good; true classic that ends the album on a high, effortlessly delightful note. A charismatic pop album.