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Album Review: Mac DeMarco - 'Five Easy Hot Dogs'

Updated: May 3, 2023

Allowing oneself to be vulnerable is crucial along a spiritual/life journey, and Mac DeMarco shares his vulnerability in Five Easy Hot Dogs.

In June 2016, I was the parent of two teenagers, a competitive age group triathlete, and a bartender preparing for my first residency at Goddard College. Not yet a blogger, I worked instead of going to The Nelsonville Music Festival; MFAs cost a lot of money. However, I remember people returning after the weekend, and the performer’s name on everyone’s tongue was Mac DeMarco.

There are many great musicians worldwide; when I hear a name, I try to check them out. However, I become obsessed once I begin studying an album or musician. Mac DeMarco appeared on my radar while I was dissecting A Moon Shaped Pool for my master’s thesis. Instead of spending a lot of time with his music, it became a welcome surprise on playlists. “Still Beating” became a regular on Sunday Chill.

Long Story Short

When Mac DeMarco and Five Easy Hot Dogs popped up in our Alt Revue group chat, I jumped at the chance to contemplate the musician and write an album review.

The Vehicle - Comparison

Two names I have been into recently are Surprise Chef and Panos Cosmatos. If you have heard of neither, let me share a little information.

Surprise Chef is a jazz funk band from Melbourne, Australia, that creates music that evokes nostalgia for the dirty seventies, cocaine-induced hallucinations, and unsettling chill. (That was a little extreme. They are easy to listen to.) Check out “Crayfish Caper.”

Panos Cosmatos is a film director who visually creates an atmosphere where Surprise Chef music could exist. An easy and accessible example is episode 7 from Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, “The Viewing.” (This was probably not extreme enough. His movies can be very disturbing.)

I bring these names to your attention because “Gualala” from Mac DeMarco’s Five Easy Hot Dogs took me to a similar place.

Picture This – Let’s Pretend

Panos Cosmatos has a new movie out. In the opening scene, he introduces the audience to a musician, Mac DeMarco, as he is finishing up a tour. Although he wants nothing more than to go home, his manager appears as he is packing up his car. Cosmatos holds out a contract that the musician signed during a bad Thai food-induced dream. The early thirty-some performer is forced to continue his travels through an alternate universe where LSD is in the water; mescaline is in all the fruit, and cocaine is the coffee. Our hero, the musician, can only go home after he’s performed fourteen more shows. The opening band is Surprise Chef from Melbourne, Australia.

On tour and along the way, Cosmatos uses Surprise Chef music to build tension: the bands losing their way, rowdy crowds, and intense hallucinations from water, innocent-looking fruit, and the addictive coffee. They use their grasp of psychedelia to push the waves and ride the envelope. The only reprieve from the chaotic Cosmatos universe is when the musician and the band travel between shows. DeMarco uses his experience to help the band accept the weird moments in “Portland” and “Portland 2” and revel in the peace of “Victoria.” The “Vancouver” show reminded him of happiness, while “Vancouver 2” was being trapped inside during a forty-degree rain. However, doubts fall away like the rain because they are getting closer to home. The drive from “Edmonton” and “Edmonton 2” remind them why the journey began.

Mood. Demons. Unintentional and undesired drug use. A musical, instrumental journey. Back and forth between Surprise Chef and Mac DeMarco, entering back into the United States elicits a revived of crazy energy as seen in “Chicago.” When the musician sees the familiarity of a former home in “Rockaway,” he hopes to go home. Instead, DeMarco finds that he is nearly in the same place he was when he started. The bad Thai food must have done him in.

Pushing This Pretend Too Far

In an interview with Alt Revue reporter Jesse R Stowe, Cosmatos says, “Five Easy Hot Dogs is the only peace the musicians can find along the way. Yet, it is much more. It also represents the inner workings of their souls. The conflict. The regret. The loneliness.

“In DeMarco’s album, his vulnerability comes to the surface. His moods are in flux. Hope is broken by the weight of the journey, yet it still threads the album as he captures the spirit of the cities he visited. Reprieve and reflection are necessary when demons are brought into reality.”

Final Thought: Writing a review on an album that is nothing short of a vulnerable instrumental personal essay, I have to look at DeMarco’s purpose for sharing it. I believe he wanted to show the emotions he felt along the way, and I think he was successful in doing so. Musically, the rises and falls were not extraordinary, but I felt his pain and loneliness. I hope he can accept my strange and disjointed review.

Favorite Songs: “Gualala,” “Vancouver 3,” and “Edmonton 2”

Rating - 5/5 for the gratitude of sharing

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