My pal Marc and I have been through a lot together. Okay, maybe not literally, but the music of Marc with a C has been a part of my life for close to a decade now, a tuneful shot of empathy and wonder in good times and bad. Moreover, he’s one of the many musicians I’ve had the pleasure to get to know I the dreaded RL.
Marc is good people. I like the guy, and not just because he’s a talented creator and a warm, genuine conversationalist. As music fans, we tend to speak the same language, and I’ve long appreciated Marc’s reverence for the oft-maligned power of the pop song.
In recent years, however, Marc has often travelled deeper and deeper into the reedy realm of the concept album, with releases like last year’s moody Exactly Where I Am (complete with its enigmatic, photographic lead-up) and 2013’s market-driven Popular Music (an album literally designed by committee). Therefore, I tend to view his latest LP, Unicorn Get More Bacon, as more a return to form.
Coming in at 12 tracks strong with only a couple stretching past the magic 4-minute mark, UGMB kicks off with the title track, seemingly inspired by the kitschy album art provided by Marc’s own daughter. Alternating between allusions to the rigors of the modern working musician and humorous, seemingly throwaway asides, the song practically blossoms around its infectious refrain.
This is a motif that occurs throughout the album, this game of thematic hide-and-seek that’s part artful musing, part good-natured foolishness. It’s a record wherein it is perfectly acceptable to hear down-home jangle-pop collide with damning indictments of celebrity culture (“Celebutantes”), breezy acoustic ballads that quickly devolve into absurdist acid rock tributes (“The Ballad of Dick Steel”), and even candy-coated, middle-management dirges that can never quite rectify the pale present with a largely uncertain future (“Where’s My Giant Robot”).
Marc, ever the musical chameleon, switches effortlessly between poignant, uniquely heart-breaking narratives and snarky satire–from the slow burn of “Falling Sometimes Down” to the measured, palm-muted aggression of “Texas Myron.” Still, the album always seems to shine the brightest when shades of Marc, the real Marc behind all the experimentation and outlandish characters, peak through the seams in cuts like cockeyed love ballad “Anything But Plain” and the simmering rage of “Ethics in Gaming,” with its telling lyrical confession “I ask what’s wrong with just making stuff / ’cause you’re inspired?”
But even as I floated through the epic drone of closer “Long Distance Dedication,” marveling at all that had been said and done, I couldn’t help but think that the truth of this album–and of Marc himself–was hidden in plain sight in even its earliest moments. Specifically, the title track’s aforementioned hook: “They said an artist needs a patron / and unicorns get more bacon / but they cheer the loudest for what I like least.”
That blend of outright whimsy and unabashed sincerity, of pop sensibility and personal truth, is what it’s really all about.
Like Washington Irving or, just as accurately, Jonathan Richman before him, Marc’s Unicorns Get More Bacon seems to revel in the knowledge that there is no nobler creation than that of art for art’s own sake. If some of his personal views, his own unique takes on the relative bane or boon of modern existence, manage to poke through, all the better. And if you as a listener find some glint of insight or inspiration between the lines, that’s great too.
But the secret of Unicorns Get More Bacon appears to be that there’s no secret at all, that–if I may massacre the Bard–the song’s the thing. And each song firmly hits the quirky guitar-pop bull’s-eye.
Unicorns Get More Bacon by Marc with a C is available now in a variety of formats. You can pick it up via Bandcamp as a digital download, on CD, or as a special edition pink-and-blue splattered vinyl for $5, $8, and $15, respectively. (Trust me–go for the vinyl!)
Like most of Marc’s work, it contains swears, adult situations, and outright musical bliss. Listen responsibly.
Review materials provided by: Marc with a C