thu 18/07/2019

CD: Mark Mulcahy – The Gus | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Mark Mulcahy – The Gus

CD: Mark Mulcahy – The Gus

The singer-songwriter's latest finds him in fine, authorial, voice

On his last album, 2017’s acclaimed The Possum in the Driveway, singer-songwriter Mark Mulcahy presented a collection that seemed almost anthological – a series of vignettes each with a strong sense of individual identity, sewn together in a pin-perfect patchwork by Mulcahy’s distinctive tones. 

With The Gus, Mulcahy has taken his narrative approach forward, apparently inspired by the short stories of American writer George Saunders. His renewed focus lends a sharp sense of authorial voice to the album and the result is a more contained and structured piece. 

Mulcahy’s success here is rooted in his ability to communicate much using simple language. Carefully chosen words sit in the sweet spot between simple storytelling and poetic ambiguity. We are being told something, hand-held through a moment, but we’re also invited to look further, into the spaces he leaves. 

Gaps also play a key part in the musical setting. Not in a: “it’s the notes you don’t play” sense – that’s clearly errant nonsense, yet there is something in the restraint demonstrated throughout that gives welcome room for these mini-dramas to breathe. 

Opener “Wicked World”, which also features the plaintive vocals of Rain Phoenix, is as good a place as any to start. The picked guitar: raw, sure and deliberate underpins a tragic tale, while later, mournful harmonica picks out single notes rather than chords – delicately highlighting rather than obscuring. Everything pulls in the same direction and the listener is left to fill in the gaps for themselves. 

“Later for the Box” is another notable example. An offbeat battle of wills between a man and his curiosity, piqued by an unexpected delivery, it’s a beautifully detailed comic tale, told with impressive economy and an ending that is frustratingly, yet exquisitely teasing. 

The Gus is far from a one-note offering, however. Delicate dynamics are shored up by the undulating power and to and fro time signature of “Taking Baby Steps”, while the weighty “What If I Go off with Bob?”, featuring the muscular chops of Dinsaur Jr's J Mascis, posesses a simple sense of purpose, both musically and lyrically, that is reminiscent of prime Velvet Underground.

“It’s simpler to stick to what to you know,” sings Mulcahy on “I Won’t Tell Anyone But You”. If The Gus is the result of him doing just that, then who needs complicated? 

@jahshabby

Carefully chosen words sit in the sweet spot between simple storytelling and poetic ambiguity

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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