There are times to put pedal to metal and get places fast. Then there are times to take your foot off the gas, cruise, enjoy the scenery. This Old Dog is an album that does the latter. It pootles along the Pacific coastline, arm out the window, maybe pulling over for a dip in the ocean, or a nostalgic beer with an old buddy. It doesn’t ratchet through the gears. It doesn’t need or want to.
Even by DeMarco’s previous standards this third album proper is laid back. Nothing as jaunty as Cooking Up Something Good or The Way You’d Love Her here. It’s less spiky than the Canadian’s previous work too. Those woozy melodic shifts are still in evidence, but instrumentation is much more straightforward – acoustic guitar; thin, delicate drums; an electric guitar that’s only lightly treated, rather than wavering quite so giddily all over the shop. Tonally, it has a lot in common with Beck’s Sea Change – mellow, with a mild melancholia.
The drawback to an album this dreamy is the lack of a track to leap up and bite you. Their charms are all very gentle ones. Moonlight On The River hooks you in through swirly melodic hypnosis. On The Level is 80s American wine bar muzak you could nicely nod off to if it weren’t for the two-note synth riff jolting you awake. My Old Man is not the cover of the Ian Dury song which would’ve been a cat among the album’s pigeons, but rather a simple, lilting piece of Americana-lite, taking its lyrical cue from that old Cat’s In The Cradle dilemma of turning into your own Dad.
In smoothing over some of the quirky knobbles and bobbles, DeMarco’s lost a little distinctiveness. The pay-off is an album that slips down real easy. One hopes for a long, lazy summer to suit it.