Tuesday, 14 May 2013

MS MR - Second Hand Rupture

Gloom-pop, glitch-pop, dark wave; riding a wave of emoticons, reblogs and fickle, LOL hungry teens, the New York duo of Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow deliver their debut album.

Owing a debt both to Blondie’s sleek new-wave and the present generation of synth-pop assisted divas, it effectively pre-empts Florence Welch’s next move by throwing big-lunged choruses over syncopated rhythms and glossy synths. With beats that wouldn't seem out of place on a Calvin Harris record it seems as if every ingredient is present for ‘Secondhand Rapture’ to be a big success. Yet despite Plapinger’s Tumblr friendly hair colour and the duo’s dark-wave pretenses  the choruses are as sugary and predictable as they come and there’s no sense of illicit thrills that the very best electronic music can offer; the razorblade in the cotton candy or the bittersweet pill that makes the highs all the more vivid.

At least Florence’s faux-pagan theatrics and private school upbringing were offset by interviews in which it became apparent that the wide-eyed kook in Victorian attire was not some carefully thought out marketing gimmick and she genuinely did live her life as if she were Kate Bush in the Wuthering Heights video. In contrast, by surfing in on a wave of net zeitgeist MS MR are left re-packaging the tropes that made them a trending topic in the hope of making an album that holds together for more than forty minutes. In some ways ‘Secondhand Rapture’ is an unfortunate choice of title because rather than conjuring up the air of mystique that MS MR evidently strive for, it actually highlights their most prominent weakness: we've heard this before.

All four tracks from last year’s Candy Bar Creep Show EP are included here; the product of a record company wanting to capitalise on their online buzz in an era of low attention spans, but the problem is that the duo just haven’t generated enough top quality material. For this reason it will probably be judged a disappointment that ‘Bones’ failed to become a smash hit despite appearing in a trailer for Game of Thrones but both ‘Bones’ and the earlier single ‘Hurricane’ are still the two best moments here. The former’s macabre refrain and enormous piano motif contrast nicely with the clattering percussion of the latter whilst both push Plapinger’s soulful vocals to the front and centre.

They’re not inventors or innovators but they’re competent scavengers with a 21st century grasp of presence and presentation. Ultimately however MS MR make music that when matched to the right visuals or dropped on an undemanding dance floor delivers a brief spark but tends to leave the soul alone.

Max Sefton

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