Mac DeMarco’s tongue is no stranger to his cheek. Like Jonathan Richman, the Canuck crooner’s jangly pop muddies the line between campy and candor with ease. But where Richman’s childlike innocence is his greatest asset, DeMarco’s breathy sleaze is a bit unsettling. (Imagine the creepy soft-rock hit on the radio when you walked in on your parents, mid-hump, in middle school.) The 22-year-old’s brand of glam is more Baby Jane than Marc Bolan, evidenced by the lipstick-smeared cover of his debut, Rock and Roll Night Club. Or is it?
That’s the thing with DeMarco: We’re left to wonder whether we’re in on the meta humor, or if his throwback balladry is in fact dotted with bits of sincerity. On “Baby’s Wearing Blue Jeans,” he sings of a captivating, denim-donning vixen over a beachy keen, head-bobbing hook. But when he calls out her pants by brand (Lee, Wrangler) and style (straight leg, boot cut) and instructs her to never take them off, even in the bedroom, we can’t help but giggle at the knowing wink that is implicit. “Only You” has all the delicate whimsy of a love song. But again, we’re left to shrug.
DeMarco’s forthcoming LP, 2, due in October, seems primed to shed the yuks underpinning Rock and Roll. The single “My Kind of Woman” has an unexpected depth that reflects a saddened version of the prankster, one begging forgiveness for all the mischief. But whether he’s truly straightened up remains to be seen. Until then, expect more eye-winking shenanigans.