Album Review: Mark Mulcahy- Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You

For some reason, if there’s something I discover well after the fact—E.G. a record released years prior that I am late to the party on—I tend to put myself back to the year it was from when I listen, thinking about where I was in that year.

At quick glance, all of Mark Mulcahy’s solo output was released in years that I suppose one could consider “banner” years from my life—his debut, Fathering, is from 1997—the year I started high school. The follow up, Smilesunset is from 2001, the year I went to college. In 2005, the year I graduated from college and went off on my own, Mulcahy dropped In Pursuit of Your Happiness. And now, weeks from my 30th birthday, Mark Mulcahy is back with his first LP in eight years—Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You.

The eight-year gap between albums hasn’t changed Mulcahy’s knack for writing excellent, jangly pop songs, nor has it compromised his sound. The eleven songs that make up Dear Mark J. Mulcahy show a growth and focus that wasn’t missing from his past efforts, but it is certainly more present here.

The overall sound of Dear Mark J. Mulcahy is tough to describe. In the 1980’s and into the early 90’s, when Mulcahy was fronting the much beloved but always underrated college rock outfit Miracle Legion—their sound was something you could classify as “jangle pop.” Into his solo career, he’s brought a bit of that with him, but he’s also brought the intelligence and storytelling capabilities of a singer/songwriter, and I suppose the best way to describe this album is that it is “Adult Oriented Pop Music.” It sure as shit isn’t “dad rock,” it’s still jangly, and most importantly, it’s super catchy (best seen in “Everybody Hustles Leo,” and “My Rose Coloured Friend”)—an affirmation of Mulcahy’s skills at crafting pop music.

There has always been a hint of humor to Mulcahy’s solo work, and this is no exception. From the non sequitur “Waiter, there’s a frog in my…” that opens “Let The Fireflies Fly Away,” to the surprising joke in “He’s a Magnet”—“Excuse me lady, what’s that book you’re reading? Ah, The Bible! That’s so interesting. They’ve got a word for everything in there,” Dear Mark J. Mulcahy is a record that requires your utmost attention while listening.

The high points on the record come in the second half—including the somewhat whimsical sounding, yet lyrically serious “Bailing Out on Everything Again,” and the second to last track, the gorgeous, bittersweet slow jam “The Rabbit.”

Mulcahy’s absence from music is a sad story that’s certainly been told many times. His wife suddenly passed away five years ago, leaving him to raise his twin daughters. In 2009, a tribute/benefit album, Ciao, My Shining Star, was curated, with proceeds going directly to Mulcahy’s family. There have also been a lot of false starts at working on an album—not specifically this album. Dear Mark J. Mulcahy came together out of working with a specific group of musicians in Northampton—Mucahly never went into this record thinking, “I’m going to make a record,” and opted to take it one song at a time. In a recent interview with Consequence of Sound, he mentions two other abandoned albums sitting around—the sessions for one bore his limited edition single from December, “Low Birthweight Child.”

Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You is a welcome return for an artist that should have more than just a cult following. It’s a brief record (only 35 minutes), and it’s both complex and simple all at once. With Mulcahy’s renewed interest in performing and recording, one can hope that another eight years don’t pass before we see something else from him.