Mac DeMarco

Indie Rock’s Class Clown

Mac DeMarco’s fourth report card has arrived: B for effort

It’s hard to know what to make of Mac DeMarco.

On one hand, over the course of three studio albums, he’s played the part of the affable stoner, ambling around in yesterday’s clothes and a dad hat. On the other hand, he’s resonated enough to be the rare singer-songwriter to hit his stride in an era of DJs and hip-hop stars, without any of the dour pretense of, say, Bon Iver.

The problem with DeMarco is that his songs have always felt less like songs and more like precocious song sketches, presented as if he’s the cutest boy in the sandbox with the shiniest red fire truck. Even Beck, whose ’90s rallying cry “I’m a loser, baby,” inspired a generation to shrug indifferently at life’s travails, grew into a formidable pop auteur.

Is DeMarco capable of such transformation?

At the outset of Here Comes the Cowboy, DeMarco’s fourth studio album due out May 10, it seems the answer is “no.” Over a country-ish guitar figure, DeMarco mumbles, “Here comes the cowboy.” It’s Ween without the punchlines.

Then there’s “Choo Choo,” in which DeMarco sings “choo choo!” over a honky-tonk, funk-rock, James Gang-style groove. It’s all accompanied by the sound of — you guessed it — a wooden train whistle.

Then, all of a sudden, the song “K” — a beautiful, complete, John Lennon-esque acoustic ballad. I would never ask DeMarco for any kind of careerism, or to reek of ambition. But “K” is such a testament to what DeMarco is capable of that you wonder what might happen if, just a little more often, he tried.

Mac DeMarco with Donny Benet

Thursday, May 9 • 8pm

McDonald Theatre

$30.99 adv., $33.99 door