Review Summary: With it's screamed vocals and classical piano lines, MOPA intrigues, but its sheer lack of variety and triviality make this album a one-time listen.
There's something intriguing about a band whose description goes something along the lines of ‘Screamed vocals, classical piano and a set of drums’. It’s hard here not to get caught up in a mind wave of musical expectation. Fancy labels and words like ‘jux-ta-po-si-tion’ and ‘ex-per-ri-men-tal scremo’ are perhaps some of the first to cross the mind. And for the most part, MOPA is what you expect. Drawing their inspiration perhaps from their compatriots in the bludgeoning French emo scene, MOPA throw in their own contribution to the mix by doing away with fretboards and relying solely on dark, slithering piano keys and heavy beats to accompany the somewhat tortured screams of their lead man, referred to only as the mysterious ‘M’.
The biggest draw here of course is the interplay of classical piano and screamed vocals – while MOPA certainly are not the first band to use such a combination in their music, their heavy reliance on this mix certainly sets them apart from their contemporaries. The music here is – c’mon, you know the drill – ‘dark’, ‘atmospheric’, others would chuck in ‘beautiful’ for good measure. If only it wasn’t so yawn-inducingly boring and uselessly trivial.
Piano notes run slowly up and down the keys, creating swaying, sweeping melodies, as M, who sounds somewhat unsure of his allegiance to either scremo or black metal, pours himself out in vocal desperation, crying out to be heard about… well, I’m not so sure: ‘Die For Me… If I Say Please’
, from the track of the same name is one of the stupidest lines put to record in a while, perhaps trumped only by ‘Kill me twice… kiss me first’
or even ‘Everybody hurts and everybody cries, it’s not a soap, it’s just f'ucking reality!’
Teenage angst, dear M, was passé long before the 90s were out. However, that said, the proverbial cake is undoubtedly taken by the obviously Sesame Street inspired: ‘A!! B!! C!! D!!’ A!! A!B! ABCD!!!! DDEEeee!!!’
from Page of A Dictionary
. Befitting the title perhaps, quaint even, but unless a f'ucking alphabet lesson was in order, My Own Private Alaska should instead be focusing on musical sophistication and not filler lyrical triviality.
And while shadowy atmosphere is indeed aplenty, it’s the same damn atmosphere from one song to the other, slow, chugging, plodding step after plodding step, trudging along like a torn figure through mud. It’s an intriguing struggle at first, but its sheer lack of variety and triviality make this album a one-time listen. Jammed forever in second gear, MOPA’s slow tempo, exemplified on songs like Page of a Dictionary
and the instrumental First Steps
, with their dark atmospherics no saving grace for otherwise sterile (dare I venture Alaskan-esque?
) album. Some listeners will no doubt embrace the music here, clinging on to what is an admittedly somewhat surreal and unique soundscape, with occasional flashes of a gorgeous piano run intermittently shining it’s way though the plastic sounding and technically lacking drums, another aspect that ruins an album that otherwise seems to hold so much promise in its…premise.
And that is of course perhaps why I’m being harsh. It stems from the fact that (secretly) I desperately want to like this record. The mix of a piano and screamed vocals could be an awesome idea, and indeed, some of the passages here are actually on the verge of sounding beautifully done, if only not ruined by its numerous faults. It’s probably more sad than it is annoying. Perhaps the ultimate case of ‘good idea, poor execution’? You judge that one… or not.