I think every music scene has a local hero. Here in Norman, Okla., it’s Hosty. Hosty has a standing Sunday night gig at the coolest bar/venue in town until “the end of time,” according to the management. If you live in Norman and you haven’t been to a Hosty show, it’s because you’re underage or ignorant. And I have known young’uns to stand outside the venue just to hear it. So really, it’s only the ignorant that don’t love Hosty, because to see him is to love him. He (because he and his music are almost inseparable at this point) is that awesome.
I have a feeling that Marc with a C is that guy in Orlando. Marc with a C gigs locally instead of touring to support his prodigious amount of releases. He is heavily involved in a local festival called Nerdapalooza, and he seems to appear in just about every avenue of music media in Orlando. And that’s just the info I’ve picked up from press releases, liner notes, and his songs. If I know all that and I don’t even live in Orlando, I wonder how ubiquitous he is in the right circles of Orlando.
And, as it is with Hosty, Marc with a C has gained this status by knowing his songwriting vision, crafting it to perfection, and cranking it out over and over. If Guided by Voices’ giddy passion for songwriting met the witty lyrics and and fiercely acoustic quality of early Mountain Goats records, it might resemble Marc with a C’s upbeat, wickedly funny and occasionally poignant guitar pop. Marc rarely features a full band like GBV, and his vocal style is much more palatable on first blush than John Darnielle’s nasally warble. The majority of the songs are intimate, goofy, eccentric, wonderful acoustic pop songs that you can sing and hum gleefully.
RetroLowFi is a retrospective of the last ten years of Marc with a C, and (in keeping with his prodigious output) he decided to put out a double CD with 27 songs on each side. Yes, there are an astounding fifty-four songs here, spanning the seven albums, handful of EPs, unreleased songs, live recordings, studio appearances and more that Marc has committed to tape in the past ten years.
It’s a remarkable release, and it’s incredibly enjoyable. The best tracks are crammed into the first half of the first disc and the second half of the second disc, which establishes that Marc with a C really believes that you should be listening to all 54 songs in a row as one huge album (which I have done, several times). For the uninitiated, that’s amazing tunes like the hilarious “Nerdy Girls,” the sobering “I Tried to Die Young,” the confessional singalong “Bite Size Help,” the incredibly honest love song “Stuck with Me,” and the clever “All My Drug Use is Accidental” on the first half. The back end includes the heart-breaking personal favorite “Amy, It’s Kevin,” the ba-da-bas of “RetroLowFi,” the is-it-satire-or-not “Life’s So Hard,” and “She Loves the B-Sides,” which is the best Marc with a C track I hadn’t heard.
The end of the first disc and the beginning of the second contain Marc’s goofier songs, like “Stairway to Rudolph” (which is the lyrics of “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” set to “Stairway to Heaven”), “I Love Little Pussy” (an ancient kid’s poem set to music), “Ammonia” (a list of things ammonia is good for), and “God Save the Queen from Navy Seals” (inexplicable). Marc said his goal was to have only one album necessary to buy, and the album definitely spans everything in his collection. This isn’t a greatest hits album (because I would cut out the entire middle to make that happen, with the exception of the wonderful “Bounce Bounce Bounce”); it’s an everything-I-am compendium.
And that makes it absolutely necessary if you like lo-fi acoustic pop. Marc with a C is a man with a distinct songwriting style that’s entirely entertaining. Add to the deal his witty insight on how life works and a willingness to be honest about his own problems, and you’ve got a recipe that is simply impossible to dislike. Get this album.