“Secondhand Rapture” – MS MR

3 stars (out of 5)

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I reviewed MS MR’s quite special debut  4-track  EP “Candy Bar Creep Show” late last year and may have even, in a moment of rare generosity, given it 5 stars. During its release the boy-girl, goth pop duo from New York were already speaking excitingly about their first album being almost ready to go and I remember thinking at the time, that’ll be good, something to look forward to. Well now it’s here and, although some of it’s good, it’s not really that special.

Hurricane” was one of the best pop singles of last year; it swaggered beautifully.  Lizzie Plapinger’s strong, clear vocals moaned about the foul contents of her mind; it was a helluva song. It was part of the aforementioned EP, the other three remaining tracks being equally strong, if subtle, shifts on the same sonic theme. It’s a big mistake though to include all 4 songs again here and especially to front load the album with them. Apart from another couple of songs, which also include the bombastic single “Fantasy”, again released as single before this album, the best tracks here are, disappointingly, still these same 4 songs and the decision for them to dominate the first quarter of the album only succeeds in hammering this point home.     

Of the remaining 8, unheard, tracks only “Think of You”, which follows the same, already established, template with a catchy-as-hell chorus that, instead of being bellowed, is thankfully more reflective and the Lana Del Rey-indebted ballad “BTSK”, which actually stands for Big Teeth, Small Kiss  (you can see why they decided to abbreviate it),  has drama and build with another big but dumber chorus,  comes close to the quality heard eight months ago on “CBCS”. Like Florence’s second album in particular, which MS MR’s brand of broad, glam pop has, rightly to a point, been compared to, the set up for every track is almost identical and that kind of repetition can of course work, but only if the songwriting is strong enough to support it. “Salty Sweet” is the one variation musically and is a lilting, feather-light reggae mistake.  A song like “Twenty Seven” (as in the age, at which it’s hoped one will live past)  feels so set up to soundtrack a Tumblr account of pop cultural clichés, is too shallow and under-written to penetrate in the way that it wants to. By the end of the album one song blurs into another and any strong sense of identity that may have been established at the beginning of the album has all but disappeared.

There’s a sense here that maybe there was a pressure to get this album out as soon as possible; MS MR have the feeling of a band who are very of the moment and dangerously hip. I’m sure that their moment hasn’t passed, half of this album is certainly good and enjoyable enough to make an impression and get them noticed, but if they want to headline Glastonbury, their ultimate dream, they’re going to need more than 1 EPs worth of cracking material so let’s hope that they can deliver on that initial promise.