May 06, 2005

SUCCESSFUL PURSUIT

Mark Mulcahy.jpg

Post-Miracle Legion, Mark Mulcahy in a good place

Listening to Mark Mulcahy's third album, In Pursuit of Your Happiness (Mezzotint), it quickly becomes apparent that there is not much happiness to go around at all.

But the former front man for the late 1980s college rock heroes Miracle Legion is quick to point out that there was no conscious effort to gather a dozen songs with commonly downcast themes.

"It's not a concept record or anything," Mulcahy said in a recent phone interview from his Massachusetts home. "Strangely enough they're all individual songs, and when they come together they all have an identity. For me, it all works in some way or other in my head."

On In Pursuit of Your Happiness, it all works as a shadowy, compelling album. Mulcahy's quivering voice makes him quite a convincing vocalist on stark, often brooding songs that find him sounding uneasy about the people, places and happenings around him -- particularly on the haunting "Eveything's Coming Undone." Even one of the disc's more upbeat-sounding tracks, "I Have Patience," contains the prominent lyric, "The things I love, I want to destroy," while "Nothing But a Silver Medal Will Do" is, as the title indicates, not the most optimistic outlook.

Still, Mulcahy seemed almost taken aback when asked if he considers this release to be a dark album. He reasoned that there was no specific theme or focus to his writing, since the songs on the disc did not come over a short period of time.

"I'm writing songs that occur to me," he said. "I didn't try to make a statement. I write 'em one at a time. I've never sat down and written 12 or 15 songs at one time. I've always wanted to do that, though."

To hear Mulcahy tell it, the recording of the album followed an even looser structure than the writing of the material. Among the collection of studio musicians employed for the album -- including such fellow New England indie rock notables as Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago and Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascis -- were several players that Mulcahy never even met. Such was the high level of trust Mulcahy had in his friend and and producer Myles Mangino, who, for instance, enlisted a schoolteacher he had come across to play French horn.

"Some of those people I don't even know. I hadn't seen them before and haven't seen them since," Mulcahy said. "J., I know somewhat. Joey, he never even showed up -- he [recorded his part] from L.A.

"It's kind of a theme in recording," he added. "The unknown guy comes in, and you're not really sure what they're gonna do."

That kind of creative freedom has been refreshing to Mulcahy since he began releasing records on his own label, Mezzotint. Case in point: The CD booklet folds out into a game board so the listener can play along -- it's almost like a home version of sorts of In Pursuit of Your Happiness.

"I'm not sure why I thought that was a good idea," Mulcahy said.

The singer launched the label as an outlet to release Miracle Legion material; the band had disintegrated, he says, in large part due to a prolonged contract dispute with Morgan Creek Records following the release of Drenched in 1992.

Mulcahy, who has a handful of dates scheduled for this spring and hopes to tour with backing musicians this summer, seems at peace now as an independent solo artist, his own pursuit of musical happiness apparently fulfilled.

"Everything seems to have turned out for the best," he said. "Miracle Legion was really kind of wrecked by them [Morgan Creek]. At the time it was difficult.

"It would have been nice to keep going and not have to quit that thing. But I'm happy doing what I'm doing."

-- By George Henn

Posted by medleyville at May 6, 2005 06:03 PM
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