As people, we are given to obsession with the strangest things, and music is one of the strangest. Many of our lives are sound tracked by music. The song that was playing during your first kiss, your first break-up, your granny’s funeral, the first time you took drugs, that Horslips guitar riff during Italia ’90. It’s unquantifiable, untouchable – especially in this streaming age – yet we still obsess over this thing that, essentially, occurs in thin air. Anticipating the release of your favourite band’s new record; if your old enough, reading the lyrics from the booklet as it plays, if you’re weird enough, smelling the paper. From knowing your favourite artists’ full cannon back to front to the inevitable Tom Waits rabbit hole you’ll have to contend with, being obsessed with music is a time-consuming affair but the rewards are plentiful. Like when you chance across a new artist with a hefty body of work ready for inspection. For me, Mark Mulcahy is that guy.
Having started out in the ’80s with Miracle Legion, Mulcahy has been writing and recording in one form or another ever since. There’s even been a tribute record – Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs of Mark Mulcahy – featuring the likes of Thom Yorke, Michael Stipe, and The National. He’s just released his latest record The Possum In The Driveway on his own record label Mezzotint. It’s a beautiful record, assured in its delivery yet uncertain and self-deprecating in sentiment. An album that at once encapsulates the naive optimism of the start of a night of indulgence and the pessimistic depths potentially plumbed during the fallout.
Opener ‘Stuck On Something Else’ is a sparsely arranged tale of excess, a long night spent leaning on mahogany, resplendent in hillbilly hedonism. At just over five minutes long it’s a bold choice as the first song given its simplicity but it sets down a marker, grabbing your attention straight out of the gate. There’s diversity in the writing from ’30 Days Away’ and its Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd feel to the electronically programmed tango beat of ‘I Am Number 13’ replete with haunting Mexican horns. Dichotomy also runs rampant, particularly on ‘Catching Mice’ where the protagonist wanders the halls of a psychiatric facility in a medicated fog to an infectiously catchy pop melody stabbed out on what sounds like the most basic, lo-fi Casio you probably got for Christmas in the ’90s.
Elsewhere, ‘The Fiddler’ perfectly showcases how seamlessly Mulcahy can shift between genres mid-song as well as his lyrical dexterity while ‘Cross The Street’ with its “Waitsian” delivery demonstrates his funkier side. The Possum In The Driveway is a record that’s musically loose, emotionally engaging and ultimately very satisfying by a songwriter who is truly unique. If you’re looking for a new musical obsession to futilely try to explain to friends who just don’t quite get it, Mark Mulcahy is your guy too and The Possum In The Driveway is a great place to start.