Mark Mulcahy – Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You
Fire Records, 2013
Mark Mulcahy is famous for some odd reasons. In 2008 a Mark Mulcahy tribute album was released prompting everyone to ask: Who the hell is Mark Mulcahy and why does he get a tribute album? Mark Mulcahy is was the frontman of 80s college rock troupe Miracle Legion and better known as the singer for Polaris—The band that did the theme song for the Nickelodeon classic The Adventures of Pete and Pete. The tribute album—Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs of Mark Mulcahy, featuring the likes of such luminaries as Thom Yorke, Dinosaur Jr, Vic Chesnutt, Frank Black, Michael Stipe, The National, the list keeps going—was released to help Mulcahy out financially after the sudden death of his wife in 2008. “To help Mulcahy continue making music while raising his three-year-old twin daughters,” says Wikipedia. If your heart isn’t broken by this, it oughta be.
I’m sure all of this gives Mark Mulcahy a headache. The fact that every review of Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You will invariably bring up his dead wife and how sad it is. The best thing about the record though is that it makes you forget all of that pretty much instantly with the domineering opener “I Taketh Away.” Straight out of the gate Mulcahy hits you with sass, wit, and charm. There’s no sad-bastardness to in sight, as much as sad-bastardness would be totally acceptable. Sure, there are songs that break your heart because you know there is personal shit being worked through, but that’s inevitable and universal. My favorite track on the album, “The Rabbit,” is one of these. My favorite element of the track is that it’s sad and sweet but never sappy. This album is never sappy.
What the album is is great. It’s a great album. Full of heart and abandon and soul. Like the whole “Waiter, there’s a frog in my…” bit that opens the terrifically catchy “Let the Fireflies Fly Free,” which for whatever reason sticks with me and is funny every time. Closer “Where’s the Indifference Now?” plays like a murder mystery depicting a suicide. “Why would someone so young with so many reasons to be happy?” he queries. It feels like the other side of tragedy. An alternate ending detailing what it would take for one to end one’s own life with Mulcahy standing slackjawed with curious. With Mulcahy’s mythological reality in my head I read it like Mulcahy letting us know that he is capable with handling tragedy. Because of course he is.
I like to imagine what it would be like if Robert Pollard and Mark Mulcahy started a band and how I would like that. They have so much in common. Both are indie rock lifers with a penchant for great lyrics, big guitars, and old time rock and roll filtered threw new time rock and roll technique. Ultimately he’s one of those dudes who has defied Father Time and continues to make great music at a high level when his peers from the heyday of college rock are either retired comfortably with their families or (in the case of say, R.E.M.) shadows of their former selves. In my book, “Poison Candy Heart” is enough to ensure Mark Mulcahy pop supremacy for the year. I can’t think of another song that’s gotten lodged in my head so hard. “Who’s gonna clean this up?/Probably me like I always do, you gotta poison candy heart,” Mulcahy sings. The lyrics feel conversational throughout. He scatters moments of levity between moments of the real shit people don’t like to talk about and that’s why he has earned my infinite respect. The great fuck you of Dear Mark Mulcahy, I Love You is that he so easily could have made a record about how fucking awful it would be to lose one’s wife (I personally can’t even imagine, it hurts even to do so) and people would have loved it. “Oh, look at Mark Mulcahy, it’s so sad, A+, 8.5, etc.” Instead he made a record that’s fun and loose and playful and a complete fucking joy.
"The Rabbit" (I don't know if whoever uploaded this to youtube could have made it any cornier. Just put it on in the background and enjoy)
"She Makes the World Turn Backwards"