MS MR // Secondhand Rapture // May 14, 2013 // IAMSOUND
Give any mainstream trend that you would otherwise scowl at enough time to bloom and die. Then wait. Sooner rather than later there will surely be some independent songwriters trying to make it their own. Well, they may say that it’s their attempt to make it their own but we see is as an attempt to score some cash from the trends that are no longer as uncool as they used to be. MS MR, a New York based duo, are toying with electropop influenced, dark baroque pop. Now we are happy for them and everything but simply by listening to and watching their career trajectory so far brings out the cynic in even the most patient of us.
Without beating around the bush, let’s just face the fact that MS MR sounds more or less exactly like Florence + The Machine. Here at SOP we never had a thing against Florence and her gang. We even named her brilliant Ceremonials LP as one of the best records of 2011. but that is simply because her mother nature like voice has always been backed up with stellar instrumentation which made for some inspirational music that managed to sound naturally huge. At the same time, there’s a large amount of people who didn’t buy into her coffee table pop which dealt in grace before the pure primal energy which she was supposed to translate. MS MR are a group with an idea of what they want to sound like but as songwriters without budget, they are out of their league and their debut record Secondhand Rapture features a dozen of indie coffee table songs that lack the primal spirit, the outlandish energy to turn them into anything else than somewhat bland copies of music which biggest selling card was its artfully beige stance against blandness.
To further insult everything that MS MR stand for, they are one of those groups that started out as an anonymous bunch, leeching off the hype thanks to the way they market themselves rather than the songs they were offering. The couple of tracks that they did offer before this record end up here and, surprise, they are among the highlights. Hurricane and Fantasy are the better moments that combine this tribal baroque pop with both darkness and fun. Majority of the record sadly puts on a mask, pretending to be more than it actually is. MS MR are imaginative with their song structures and very few songs on here follow your average verse-chorus structure. This opens the door for some experimentation and a possibility for the duo to create their own image burned in sound rather than marketing. That opportunity is wasted as while songs like Dark Doo Wop and Ash Tree Lane act in peculiar ways that are certainly interesting, they don’t exactly challenge the listener. The most memorable part about them are the gullible vocalisations that are simply dumb. There’s a difference between being able to craft something catchy yet experimental and simply coming across as unfocused. In MS MR’s case, they really weren’t trying hard enough when it came to their music.
If an artist is supposed to start out with a blank canvas and then create their own original picture which may or may not end up being similar to one painted by someone before them, then MS MR have started with the picture of Florence + The Machine and then figured that it’s as good as it’s going to get. Not to undermine their own abilities too much as the music is well produced for an indie record and while limited, songs like the previous singles and the bouncy Think Of You are enjoyable on their own merit. So while as songwriters MS MR are not as gullible as their approach to influences would lead you to think, there’s simply not getting around the fact that Secondhand Rapture takes the word “derivative” to the next level. Like, if Ms. Welch sued them, you wouldn’t even think of her as a crazy bint. The mediocrity of MS MR isn’t offensive but you may as well just sacrifice that little bit of your cool and get Ceremonials, an album that features exactly the same sound but deals in songs that are more emotional, more colourful, more vivid and just bursting with life compared to bargain bin emotions of Secondhand Rapture.