This week, former GC5/Magpies bassist Doug McKean, who also currently plays multiple instruments in the Ohio City Singers and fronts the Pogues cover band the Boys from the County Hell, has digitally released his fifth full-length album, The Second Golden Age of Piracy
. It can be found on both Bandcamp
McKean had intended to record with a band, but the pandemic altered those plans, and he commenced working on the album in isolation during the shutdown that took place in March.
“Late last year, I started putting the wheels in motion and started putting a band together with five or six people,” says McKean in a recent phone interview. “The band was going to make this record. I daydreamed about playing this stuff live in the studio and tracking the record that way. That idea got trashed early this year.”
But because the songs speak to the current state of affairs, McKean was determined to release the album this year.
“The songs seemed relevant this year, and it seemed good to get them out now,” he says. “Whatever goals I had about getting making a record with the band would wait, but that didn’t mean the record would have to wait. A lot of the songs were written last year. I bought a multi-track recorder in the summer of 2019, and it’s the first time I’ve owned one of those since I was a kid. I started having a good time with it. I had these scraps of songs, but I didn’t have a lot of complete songs written. I had 100 little piano riffs. I had melodies and started working them up on the multi-track recorder. It was a different process than playing them on a guitar.”
As a result, the songs such as the jittery opening number "Cowboy Show" have a retro art-rock feel to them and hearken back to Brit acts such as XTC, David Bowie and Elvis Costello.
“Elvis [Costello] is always a bit of a North Star for me,” says McKean. “He writes great lyrics and great tunes. Those are the two things I’m always aiming to do. I think there’s a touch of an art-rock thing on the record. I was listening to XTC and the art-rock era of Bowie. Those are the things that are touchstones for what I was doing.”
McKean sang, played all the instruments and recorded the songs in his basement; he then sent them to Don Dixon (REM, Marshall Crenshaw, Smithereens) to mix.
The album embraces quite a few different genres as the funky “Kintpuash” features clavinet and saxophone riffs and old school synths give “Howlin” a disco-inspired rhythm.
When it’s safe to do so, McKean hopes to play a release party of some sort.
“I definitely still want to get a band together,” he says. “I’m clearing out the underbrush, and hopefully, if things go back to normal, which is not a great assumption but the only thing you can really plan for, I want to get out with a band. I have talked to people about doing it before this hit. I want it to be a big band with guitar and keyboards and someone who can float. I talked to [local musician] Tom [Prebish] about doing it, and we can sing together well. I want to be able to put on a real show.”
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