Posts Tagged ‘Mark Mulcahy’

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Acclaimed singer-songwriter Mark Mulcahy returns with his brand-new LP, The Gus, on the Mezzotint Label. The Gusis Mulcahy’s sixth solo record and follows 2017’s dynamic The Possum in the Driveway and his celebrated 2013 return record, Dear Mark J Mulcahy I Love You.

Long heralded by contemporary luminaries like Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and covered by touchstone artists such as The National and R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, Mulcahy refuses to rest on laurels and turn out the same type of album twice. Inspired to “up his lyrical game” while reading a collection of short fiction by George Saunders, The Gus finds the songwriter channeling his eclectic voice and ear for melody into the role of storyteller more than ever before. The result is ten infectious songs that combine Mulcahy’s unique window on the world with stories that absorb listeners more with each spin. In addition to his celebrated solo career, audiences may also know Mulcahy as the frontman of seminal ‘80s rock band Miracle Legion or as “Muggy Polaris,” ringleader of Polaris, the fictional house band of the beloved ‘90s Nickelodeon series The Adventures of Pete and Pete. Both Miracle Legion and Polaris have reunited in recent years to tour and will likely do it again.

The lead track, ”Taking Baby Steps” from Mark Mulcahy’s brand-new LP, ‘The Gus’, out on Friday, July 5th

From his days with Miracle Legion and then Polaris, Mark Mulcahy has always had a laid-back, summer-porch pop styling that often betrays his complicated lyrics. On The Gus, Mulcahy unfolds a map of any neighborhood in America and then tears it apart, piece by piece, revealing a quiet underbelly of want and despair, of neediness and love in tiny truths and microscopic fictions.

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Near the end of Reagan’s first term, the Western Massachusetts Hardcore scene coughed up an insanely shaped chunk called Dinosaur. Comprised of WMHC vets, the trio was a miasmic tornado of guitar noise, bad attitude and near-subliminal pop-based-shape-shifting. Through their existence, Dinosaur (amended to Dinosaur Jr. for legal reasons) defined a very specific, very aggressive set of oblique song-based responses to what was going on. Their one constant was the scalp-fryingly loud guitar and deeply buried vocals of J Mascis.

Sure, Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis isn’t reinventing the wheel with this latest release, but that’s because he invented the wheel. Where was your outrage when Thomas Edison refused to redesign the light bulb? Exactly. This here is the title track off his latest solo record of the same name, released just last week.

Like its predecessors, Elastic Days was recorded at J’s own Bisquiteen studio. Mascis does almost all his own stunts, although Ken Miauri (who also appeared on Tied to a Star) plays keyboards and there are a few guest vocal spots. These include old mates Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession), and Mark Mulcahy (Miracle Legion, etc.), as well as the newly added voice of Zoë Randell (Luluc)  among others. But the show is mostly J’s and J’s alone.

He laughs when I tell him I’m surprised by how melodic his vocals seem to have gotten. Asked if that was intentional, he says, “No. I took some singing lessons and do vocal warm-ups now, but that was mostly just to keep from blowing out my vocal cords when Dino started touring again. The biggest difference with this record might have to do with the drums. I’d just got a new drum set I was really excited about. I don’t have too many drum outlets at the moment, so I played a lot more drums than I’d originally planned. I just kept playing. [laughs] I’d play the acoustic guitar parts then head right to the drums.”

Elastic Days brims with great moments. Epic hooks that snare you in surprisingly subtle ways, guitar textures that slide against each other like old lovers, and structures that range from a neo-power-ballad (“Web So Dense”) to jazzily-canted West Coasty post-psych (“Give It Off”) to a track that subliminally recalls the keyboard approach of Scott Thurston-era Stooges (“Drop Me”). The album plays out with a combination of holism and variety that is certain to set many brains ablaze.

J says he’ll be taking this album on the road later in the year. He’ll be playing by himself, but unlike other solo tours he says he’ll be standing up this time. “I used to just sit down and build a little fort around myself – amps, music stands, drinks stands, all that stuff. But I just realized it sounds better if the amps are higher up because I’m so used to playing with stacks. So I’ll stand this time.” I ask if it’s not pretty weird to stand alone on a big stage. “Yeah,” he says. “But it’s weird sitting down too.” Ha. Good point. One needs to be elastic. In all things.

There is plenty of drumming on the dozen songs on Elastic Days. But for those expecting the hallucinatory overload of Dinosaur Jr’s live attack, the gentleness of the approach here will draw easy comparisons to Neil Young’s binary approach to working solo versus working with Crazy Horse.

Elastic Days (Release Date: November 9th, 2018)

Mark Mulcahy’s brand new album on limited edition coloured vinyl. Mark Mulcahy (Polaris/Miracle Legion) released his first album in four years on Record Store Day 2017. Titled ‘The Possum in the Driveway’ it’s 11 songs of all new material on limited edition gold vinyl. Produced by Scott Amore. Released on The Mezzotint Label.

Initially released to coincide with Record Shop Day , we’re a little late out of the blocks with the Miracle Legion frontman’s latest solo venture, but then, The Possum in the Driveway is an album that benefits from a little time to bed in and take root.

Compared to 2013’s Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You, Possum feels alittle more daring and deliberate attempt to reach further and broaden scope: to play many parts. “Stuck on Something Else” opens the album with a hushed reverence before Mulcahy’s voice takes hold: bold, purposed and drenched in a reverb that ensures its ghost remains imprinted – a quiet and knowing reflection.

It’s musical theatre, but with the jazzhands cut off

The Mariachi thrum of “I Am the Number 13” sees Mulcahy adopting an altogether different persona, vibrant vibrato masking an underplayed, yet convincing, menace. It’s musical theatre, but with the jazzhands cut off and cloying sentiment kept in check with a gag. “The Fiddler”, meanwhile, showcases a more soulful side. Particularly the point at which it joyfully steals the coat off the back of Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay” and, rather than trying to cover up the crime, wears it home with a confident swagger of someone who knows they wear it well. It’s a ballsy move that is both playful and convincing.

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In places buoyed by driving beats and horns (the funk of “Cross the Street”), in others pulled along by an impressive emotional current (the jazz-tinged album closer “Geraldine”), this is an album that consistently surprises and, more often than not, delights. This is no scattergun approach, however: though initially seemingly disparate, Mulcahy’s voice joins the dots throughout the collection and creates a picture bigger and more complex than the individual milieux he’s assembled here.

As well as an impressive and expansive addition to his canon, it seems entirely likely that the impressive breadth and studied craft contained within Possum will see Mulcahy’s reputation as a songwriter’s songwriter – Thom Yorke, REM and J Mascis are all firm fans – extended far further. Quite right, too.

miracle legion

New Haven, CT band Miracle Legion. Of the many jangly guitar bands to form in R.E.M.’s initial wake, Now, two decades later, Mark Mulcahy’s legendary Connecticut outfit has reunited to celebrate the 20th anniversary of that record

“Getting back with Miracle Legion was something I never thought about,” Mulcahy explains. “We always lived by ‘never say never,’ and so this is some perversion of that shitty motto. Even when we were together, there were many, many times I hated it so much I couldn’t think it would last another day.”

“I’ve always had a feeling of unfinished business,” Neal admits. “The wrong business won the first time around. There is still more to do.”

Miracle Legion were one of the best and their 1984 debut EP, The Backyard (and its fantastic title track), is just a flat-out classic of the ’80s college radio era. They signed to Rough Trade who released the also excellent Surprise Surprise Surprise, Glad and Me and Mr. Ray. They made two more albums after that: 1992’s major label debut Drenched; and in 1996 they released Portrait of a Damaged Family on Mulcahy’s Mezzotint label as the band fizzled out. If you’ve never dug into Miracle Legion’s catalog, it’s worth visiting .

Miracle Legion’s Portrait of a Damaged Family is getting a 20th Anniversary first-ever vinyl press for Record Store Day 2016 (and a digital reissue shortly after). Says Mulcahy, “I don’t think many people knew it came out the first time. I’m not sure I did! Unfortunately we never toured or did anything with it. We were all lost.”

They’ll get to rectify the touring part as the band — including lead guitarist Mr. Ray Neal, and their ’90s-era rhythm section of bassist Dave McCaffrey, and drummer Scott Boutier — are getting back together for shows in North America and the UK/Ireland.

Portrait of a Damaged Family reissue artwork/tracklist, a newly-unearthed live performance of the LP’s “Homer,” can be sen here.