Former Miracle Legion frontman Mark Mulcahy last released a CD, the disarming In Pursuit of Your Happiness, in 2005. Since then, he has scored a series of exquisitely warped “pictographic ballad operas” for graphic novelist Ben Katchor, suffered the unexpected death of his wife and been the subject of a tribute album, Ciao My Shining Star, which saw his songs covered by the likes of Michael Stipe, Thom Yorke and the National. He has also hacked off his trademark mane of wavy hair.
Samson was Mulcahy’s character in The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island, the first of the Katchor spectacles, and we know from the Bible and Leonard Cohen what mayhem his namesake’s bob wrought. Mulcahy’s honeyed vocals and skewed, delirious-but-colloquial way with a song remain as potent as ever on Dear Mark J. Mulcahy: I Love You (Fire Records). But, not surprising for someone acquainted with fortune’s buffets, he opens his new disc with a whiff of brimstone.
The voice of a snarky demiurge flits through “I Taketh Away,” telling of things gone “smash, smash, smash, smash.” “She Makes the World Turn Backwards” depicts a taunting, opportunistic lover who overturns nature’s order and prompts shell-shocked falsetto flights. Amid the platitudes and half-spoken questions about disaster, a bilious angelic choir erupts in “Where’s the Indifference Now?” Yet for all their bruises and world-weariness, Mulcahy and his disc beguile with whimsy, warmth, and the triumphant pulse of life.—Marion Lignana Rosenberg