Listening for the first time to Mark Tucker’s In the Sack reminded me of the day I interviewed Daniel Johnston. I was excited to meet Daniel, but also nervous because I had absolutely no idea what to expect. When he sat down across from me, he was shy but friendly. Initially I was relieved that he was engaging me in a somewhat normal conversation. A few minutes later, his eyes wandered away from mine, and he started off on an incoherent rant about Nazis.
I can only guess that interviewing Mark Tucker would be equally uncomfortable. Tucker, a postman from the San Diego area who may or may not have believed himself to be the reincarnated poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, recorded a series of notoriously weird private press LPs in his home in the ’70s and ’80s. Jim O’Rourke has described him as "a bootleg Brian Wilson," a totally apt description of Tucker at his best. The cover of "When I Fall In Love" near the end of In the Sack is beautiful, and actually does sound a lot like something from Pet Sounds. The rough piano-driven instrumentals, especially the cover of Wall Of Voodoo’s "Can’t Make Love," are some of the album’s greatest moments. And a track Tucker sang backward phonetically and then reversed, a space folk love song to astronaut Sally Ride, is astoundingly great. Love, love, love… you may be picking up on a theme at this point in the review.
The title In the Sack is a triple-entendre, referring to Tucker’s profession as a mail carrier, to the "heavy sacks [we all] carry on our back at one time or another," and especially to his (possibly imagined) encounters under the covers. Tucker apparently had a painful break-up before he recorded the album, and his obsessive feelings about women dominate the album. For the most part the fixation is charming, but toward the end he starts to sound hateful and gets pretty unhinged. On "The Sale Is Made," one of two field recordings Tucker uses as interludes, a shopkeeper muses on the origin of human sin: The first woman, Eve. The next song, "Attractive," is an angry tirade about good-looking women who get a free ride in life. Musically, I actually like the track, a sloppy homemade funk song with echoing sped-up chipmunk vocals on the bridge. But the lyrics are totally creepy. In spite of the few painful moments like this, In the Sack is an idiosyncratic and enjoyable album.