Zoned In: Mark McGuire: Living With Yourself

By Ric Leichtung

Mark McGuire's been kicking around since mid-2006 as guitarist for Cleveland heroes Emeralds. He's also put out about 30 solo records, in batches sometimes as limited as 20 copies per pressing. With his new solo LP on Austrian label Editions Mego, who released Oneohtrix Point Never's Returnal and Emeralds' Does It Look Like I'm Here? earlier this year, McGuire is finally getting the distribution he deserves. Living With Yourself is a deeply personal album, but not in the sense of, say, an Elliott Smith release. McGuire doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve, bare his soul, or poetically expose his innermost desires and tragic flaws. In fact, he hardly says a word. He doesn't have to.

Instead, Mcguire uses "field recordings" that his father, Mark McGuire Sr., took when Mark Jr. was just 5-years old, filling us with a sense of nostalgia, authenticity, and character as we bear witness to intimate moments in McGuire's life. My favorite two seconds of the album occur 1:35 into its closing track, "Brothers (For Matt)", when McGuire Sn. can be heard playfully inquiring about his sons' girlfriends. Jr. points out his father has told them to stay away from girls. Sn. agrees, and instructs his kids to be nice to the ladies, but "just... keep away." In that moment, hearing his voice fade away in resignation and longing, I become wildly speculative. I think about why McGuire Sn. swallowed his words. I wonder why his mother isn't in this recording. I begin to picture Mark hanging out with his family at the house on the cover, and realize how much it reminds me of a home I lived in when I was younger.

It occurs to me that Mark and I are both the same age, that we were both born in Cleveland, and that we were both total ladykillers at the age of 5. Sure, these are superficial commonalities, but in them we can see what makes McGuire's work on Living With Yourself so special. His songs, minimal and impressionistic, are like mirrors. The echoing guitar weavings, ambient and melodic, evoke a wide array of emotions and situations. In standout "Brain Storm (For Erin)", I hear memories of tragedy. In opening track "The Vast Structure of Recollection", I hear a carefree summertime. Living With Yourself is an exploration of remembrance, allowing us to relish in the nostalgia of what once was, and in some cases, forcing us to confront the past in the name of a better today and tomorrow.

MP3: Mark McGuire: "Brothers (For Matt)"

MP3: Mark McGuire: "Brain Storm (For Erin)"

Living With Yourself is available now via Editions Mego

Tags: mark mcguire, zoned in, features, audio

Posted by alteredzones on 12/10/2010 at 1 p.m..

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