The year is 2019, and Mark Mulcahy has just released The Gus, his sixth solo studio album and an unintended ode to a life filled with tremendous joys, unimaginable sorrows and music—an incredible life Mark can call his own. The ten-track collection, a laid-back project completed among and with the help of friends, seems intensely tied to Mark’s most significant highs and lowest lows, beautifully even if unintendedly so. Each song could be weaved onto a snapshot of Mark’s life: held together by the delicate and gorgeous sound of string instruments, bright harmonica tunes, and colorful vocal harmonies, each sonic patch is part of a rich collection of snapshots.
It is 2013 and Mark is receiving significant praise by critics for Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You, an album many believe is his comeback. The fragile positivity with which he barrels through the record mirrors the upbeat nature of “I Won’t Tell Anyone but You,” the fifth track of The Gus. The energetic drums of the 2019 track provide a strong foundation for the sustained electric guitar chords that so clearly linger to create an atmosphere for the storytelling of Mulcahy, a story encouraging and discouraging at once. The song echoes a great wish for a man to accept his place in the world, to be sure of what he is and nothing more.
The sun shines on a suburban front yard in 1993 as Mulcahy and the other members of Polaris are recorded playing the opening theme of Nickelodeon’s The Adventures of Pete & Pete, the opening montage destined to become a nostalgic trip for an entire generation. The show’s opening song “Hey Sandy” reflects the series’ inspiring theme of encouragement and perseverance, similarly, the third track of The Gus “Taking Baby Steps” twenty-six years later has the same emotional resonance in Mulcahy’s voice. The melodies of Mulcahy, alongside the luscious harmonies on the 2019 track, ignite feelings of hope and a better tomorrow for a dear friend in need.
In 2008 Mark is taking a break from music, watching after his twin daughters following the sudden death of his wife. The strength necessary to pull through in the face of such a tragedy is unthinkable, and yet a listener familiar with Mark’s tale can feel the artist’ emotion injected into the final distorted moments of the otherwise peaceful opening track of The Gus “Wicked World,” heavy in its delivery. Bubbling beneath soft instrumentation and eventually overtaking it the ominous sound erupts and echoes as it crackles, disrupting the song in a rage.
In 2018 Mark and producer Marc Seedorf are working alongside a talented cast of musicians that include Dinosaur Jr.’s, J Mascis. As they elaborate ideas, they stumble upon songs like “What If I Go off with Bob?” a track with heartland rock tendencies that will send off the album on a fantastically upbeat note. The collective minds behind the project will go on to assemble a record not shy in its storytelling, bare in its emotions and sure of itself.
It is 2020, and The Gus has been archived into the lengthy discography of the New England-based artist. The record, though singularly enjoyable and enthralling, is for better or worse part of a collection that must be viewed in its entirety to be fully appreciated. Mark’s life as a musician has been an honest one, and each entry has reflected his experiences, The Gus proves that he is ready to tell the stories; he is prepared to show his collection of snapshots at last.