Mark Mulcahy seems to have propelled out of another age, one of ’70s country rock, though with an indier, but equally earnest, twist. Following the lead of other new releases such as Treetop Flyers‘ The Mountain Moves, the driving influence of Americana can be heard on tracks such as Let The Fireflies Fly Away and He’s A Magnet with a relatively straightforward driving groove. This sense of simplicity is not to undermine Mulcahy’s work however, but goes to enable, and ultimately enhance, his painting of the Great American Landscape.
An appropriate cliché within which to compare Mulcahy here would be with the other great American lyrical painters, the Bob Dylans, Paul Simons and Bruce Springsteens. But this would be ill-conceived, an exaggeration and, well, just wrong. To state that Mulcahy lacks the breadth of work that these other great social narrators have is to state the obvious, but what is contained within this album suggests that he is working within the same parameters.
Although the musical aspects of the album are perhaps a bit less gospel-influenced than Springsteen, and a tad less rhythmically intricate than Simon, Mulcahy shares the lilting beat of the American working man, also showcased by Dylan most memorably on Highway 61 Revisited. Mulcahy writes nothing that hasn’t been written about before; he employs no new musical devices or elements of the experimental, the avant-garde even. This is not to suggest that the album is of no interest or offers nothing new.
Unlike the character creations of the aforementioned great American songwriters, Mucahy’s work seems to have come from his own personal experiences, from the heart. He asks “Where does it hurt? Everywhere!” before going on to say “Drive on faster if you want / I’m positive we’re the ones we’ve been waiting for”. Although this statement is obviously metaphorical, it suggests that Mulcahy is working out his own personal problems, both in life but also through his music, rather than waiting for someone else to come along with solutions. His songs become conversational, dwelling on his own consciousness and spirituality, especially within He’s A Magnet where he asks “What’s that book you’re reading? Ah! The bible; they’ve got a word for everything in there” with the possibility of looking to religion for a spiritual answer to the unanswered, and unasked, question which seems to silently haunt the album throughout.
This becomes even more ambiguous on the best track of the album, Let The Fireflies Fly Away, where a sense of entrapment is foregrounded lyrically by Mulcahy talking of “breaking out tonight” before going on to talk of a “hitch-hiking chicken”. Although this imagery might summon a standard ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ joke, there is no further reference, or explanation, of it. Here, this foregrounds another key element of Mulcahy’s creations: his wit. Let The Fireflies Fly starts with Mulcahy repeating “Waiter, there’s a frog in my…” and elsewhere are other similar strange, but equally hilarious, utterances.
Musically, Mulcahy showcases his raw, but impressive, vocal talents throughout the album with a vocal timbre that sits somewhere between Jackson Browne and, weirdly enough, Damon Albarn. Although possibly less fashionable than the latter’s work, this is an album not to be overlooked; it is a particularly heartfelt and well rounded creation. The sense of rhythmic looseness and American country lilt, showcased most obviously on My Rose Coloured Friend, coupled with Mulcahy’s lyrical sensibilities and questioning of his own troubles and existence, make for not a particularly life-changing but pleasing listening experience.