Well, pride always comes before the fall, as they say, and it’s usually when we think we can do no wrong that our resting-on-laurels disposition starts to stink of the worst hubris and everything falls flat. The Gus is a collection of pointless folk rock songs that hark back to a time when indie was truly boring (think Bright Eyes and The Mountain Goats) and make a simplistic mockery of inspired acts like Neil Young and The Shins.
Truth be told, Mark Mulcahy is the undeniable indie rock veteran, borne out of the East Coast’s ’80s, Yo La Tengo-adjacent Miracle Legion, and even the arbiter of two quality albums of this decade: Dear Mark Mulcahy, I Love You and The Possum in the Driveway. I haven’t really speculated too much on what this new, almost equally strange album title might refer to. Suffice it to say though that “Gus” might be some upwardly mobile, overly comfortable homoerotic who’s heard entirely too much praise of his modal orientation, and come upon the thought process that everything he does, upon this circumstance, is automatically poetic. This album, over gentle, harmonica-cloaked rock, is full of insufferable lyrical inanities like “Save a piece of pie for me” and “It’s not as though I hate you”. There’s just this putrid sense of self-importance about these little emotional observations on Mulcahy’s part. These zoomed-in, attempted stabs at hominess are so anticlimactic that it almost makes you long for the nauseatingly political disposition of the more pious hardcore punks out there.
It’s not as though, anyway, that The Gus is that much DIFFERENT from Mulcahy’s former work: it pours in at the approximate same tempos, volumes and general consistencies, even. Actually, though, it’s almost like a case of subtraction by addition, as the main standout I remember on The Possum in the Driveway “Stuck on Something Else,” which I think I included on my top 100 videos all time list, carried this extreme instrumental bareness, as if Mulcahy wanted you to be able to hear a pin drop while he illustrated his fragile mind state in the music. The songs on The Gus are uninspired, more like left-brain lunges at what Mulcahy finds to be his own personal musical ideal and masquerade, which of course by rule renders them congenitally “played-out,” as it were.