Mac DeMarco is a hard one to pin down. Before switching to his given name for Rock and Roll Night Club, DeMarco existed as cassette-issuing Makeout Videotape, where his music ping-ponged from digital noise to high-strung underwater pop. Promotional videos he's made for his music have more in common with the damaged frat-boy absurdity of Tim & Eric than the typical sullen art school dropout imagery of some of his Captured Tracks labelmates, or even the androgynous post-glam characterization that flows through this debut. The strange distractions that surround DeMarco are off-putting at best, and could definitely stand as deal breakers to anyone without the patience for nonsense. It isn't even really safe to say one should focus on the music alone, as even just the raw files of Rock and Roll Night Club are infiltrated by goofy fake radio announcements and the occasional detour into Ween-at-their-worst levels of sophomoric idiocy. DeMarco is best approached on a song-to-song basis, forgetting any external influence or even the song that came before it. Track for track, Rock and Roll Night Club is full of highlights. The starry-eyed darkness of "Only You" comes closest to a modern take on indie rock, sounding like a weathered Deerhunter cassette demo from the Microcastle era. Early on DeMarco employs direct clean guitars and muffled drums on the weird denim-fetish anthem "Baby's Wearing Blue Jeans." The next song, "One More Tear to Cry," carries on this Lou Reed if produced by Ariel Pink thread, using the same lonely croon and actually the exact same vocal melody. The next track, "European Vegas," does the same, shifting melodies only a little on the chorus. "She's Really All I Need" breaks the chain somewhat, melding a finally different melody with wobbly guitar lines and beachy percussion. Somehow instead of being an annoyingly repetitive conceptual misfire, the identical melodies work in DeMarco's homespun glam thug sonnets in an if-it-ain't-broke kinda way, lending different shades of the same color to their respective songs. Then moments later, the off-key dork-fest ode to the king of pop "Moving Like Mike" dismantles the cool vibe and resets the feeling of the entire album. Rock and Roll Night Club is a confusing record, but not a mess. On the contrary, it's so deeply calculated that the intentions and possible motivations of its songs are likely to be lost on most. This would be a problem if the good songs weren't so incredible and strange and the weak ones so immediately forgettable.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas