A rather beautiful and wholly appropriate tribute.
Daryl Easlea 2009-09-16
Mark Mulcahy has never enjoyed the recognition he deserves in the UK. Through the Miracle Legion, Polaris and his solo work, he has built up an impressive body of largely ignored material. The proceeds from Ciao My Shining Star, an album featuring alt-rock superstars covering his work, are to help him bring up his twin daughters following the sudden death of his wife, Melissa, in 2008.
It’s clear to see the regard in which Mulcahy is held by his peers through a glance at the album’s cast list. You get Vic Chesnutt, Frank Turner and Elvis Perkins – but to have Thom Yorke, Michael Stipe, Frank Black, The National and Mercury Rev involved underlines his worth more prominently. And there are 20 additional performances to download.
There is much to relish: Yorke’s version of All for the Best is delivered with the amalgam of sweetness and discordance that he’s explored since Kid A. Dinosaur Jr. slash through a suitably boisterous version of Miracle Legion’s debut release, The Backyard, awash with J. Mascis’s scything, distorted guitar. The National take Ashamed of the Story I Told and turn it into a storming piece of Americana, speeding up the Polaris song and removing any of the original’s tentativeness. It starts like The Beta Band and ends like Bruce Springsteen. With cellos.
Frank Turner’s bald reading of The Quiet One emphasises the humour in Mulcahy’s writing – “What kind of drugs have you done tonight / you’ve got a face like a lava light” – but it is long time friend Stipe who comes out on top. His poignant version of Everything’s Coming Undone reminds you of the time when he was one of the world’s most important vocalists.
All 21 songs, bursting with love, hurt, loss, sarcasm and melody, are staggering in their intimacy and invention. Ciao My Shining Star is a rather beautiful and wholly appropriate tribute to an under-valued songwriter, who may now receive an appropriate level of attention.
One champion, novelist Nick Hornby, wrote in his 31 Songs that Mulcahy’s music was “only ever going to find its audience through word of mouth and recommendations by the like-minded”. It’s true. After listening to these sympathetic renditions of his tunes, you long for a world where Mark Mulcahy is very, very famous.