As I first listen to Here Comes the Cowboy, I am driving from Jackson, Wyoming, to Yellowstone National Park via Grand Teton National Park. It’s 5:30 a.m., and this album just makes sense. With a title like Here Comes the Cowboy, it’s hard to deny it’s Western influences. The West is a lonely place; it’s harsh, desolate and crushingly beautiful. Each song, with titles like “Finally Alone” and “Skyless Moon,” expresses the inner thoughts of someone who is utterly alone, like a cowboy roaming an open plain. As I meander through the mountains with thoughts flowing in and out of my head, Mac meanders through each song, touching on whatever thought flows through his mind.
On Here Comes the Cowboy, Mac DeMarco announces the arrival of a new Mac, a “cowboy” Mac, a Mac that is alone and free to explore whatever landscape he pleases. Here he focuses a little more on the personal. Introductory track “Here Comes the Cowboy” is a prime example of this. Slow, outlaw, country-esque guitar melodies and methodical drumstick taps serve as a backdrop to Mac as he chants, “Here comes the cowboy,” making sure his presence is known. The repeated lyrics make it clear that Mac wrote this album to make way for a new version himself, one that has not been seen before.
Mac keeps the ball rolling with lead single “Nobody,” a self-criticism of the way he presents himself to stay relevant in the music industry. He sings, “I’m the preacher / A done decision / Another creature / Who’s lost its vision.” He claims he has a voice, but his voice is used to push an image that is not necessarily true to who he is. For a cult figure like Mac to say this speaks volumes. How long has he been pushing a false image of himself, of this indie goofball, especially when he was signed to Captured Tracks, a major label? It’s an interesting thought given that Mac now runs his own label and can now delve deeper and deeper into his own life without the influence of a record company.
On “Baby Bye Bye” and “On the Square” Mac explores himself in ways he hasn’t done before this album. He is direct and to the point. “On the Square” is a wake up call for Mac, in which he realizes how truly unique and wonderful he is. He has the power to do whatever he wants, and he can put his own individual flair on all of his work. On “Baby Bye Bye,” he explores a failed relationship, wondering what he could have done differently. However, what makes this track different from anything Mac has done before is that he combines this introspection in the song’s first half with his goofball persona in the song’s second half. It consists only of random shouts, noises and countless yeehaws. It’s ridiculous, but it shows he is staying true to himself.
Mac can be serious and introspective, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have fun anymore — just take a look at the music videos for “Nobody,” “On the Square” and “Here Comes the Cowboy.” They all focus on grotesque, silly monsters that each represent a part of Mac’s being, showing he can still have fun while being more mature and thoughtful. However, the silliness would benefit from better arrangement with respect to the introspection because, as it is presented, lighter tracks like “Choo Choo” and the second half of “Baby Bye Bye” are reduced to thoughtless interludes, rather than something distinct and meaningful.
Here Comes the Cowboy marks the arrival of a new Mac DeMarco. This new Mac combines introspection with nonsensical, almost wry charm. He explores what it means to be a “cowboy” in the life that he leads. To be a cowboy today is to be a trailblazer, someone that marches to the beat of their own drum. For Mac, it means someone who can explore the landscapes of his life by himself and at his own pace.