Mark McGuire - "Clouds Rolling In" (Living With Yourself)
There are many reasons you shouldn’t like Living With Yourself, guitarist Mark McGuire’s debut for a (relatively) high-profile label. If you like your music with any kind of grit or rawness, then the eight bright, crystal-clear compositions of this album will nauseate you. If painful earnestness makes you cringe, then McGuire’s concept for the album — an examination of his relationships with his friends and family — will surely scare you off. And if you think a guitarist multi-tracking himself with a bunch of loop boxes and pedals is the musical analogue of a chemically enhanced athlete, then get your condemnations ready.
But I can’t help it. I like Living With Yourself. A lot. After a few listens, the smooth sheen of McGuire’s playing becomes seductive, the earnestness charming and his methods entrancing. With this album, he’s succeeded in doing what only a few others (Oneohtrix Point Never also comes to mind) have: He’s made music that is experimental without carrying the weighty baggage that term entails, but nor is it anything that might even remotely be considered pop. It’s accessible without condescending to anything or anyone. It’s bold without making a big stink about it. It’s personal without being solipsistic. It’s a musical proof of Umberto Eco’s thesis: “Two cliches make us laugh, but a hundred cliches moves us because we sense dimly that the cliches are talking among themselves, celebrating a reunion.”
So all that multi-tracked noodling reveals itself to be a complex weave of spidery melodies, hypnotic, cycling chord progressions and hallucinatory levels of texture. Instead of slick trickery, the bright tone and positive mood of the pieces become a clear-eyed compositional vision. And that earnestness? No, it’s not nostalgia, but a meditation on memory, on how it accrues layers, confuses itself and gains new meanings with every pass we make through it. Turn that metaphor back on the music itself, and it’s an apt description of the subtle magic McGuire works on this album.