Alex Crossan, better known by his DJ moniker Mura Masa, gained attention with his debut album in 2017, a self-titled project that merged the dance music reverie of Britain’s past with current pop and hip-hop global sensations. The combination of hypnotic, pulsating rhythms with syrupy choruses and instrumentation shot Mura Masa onto the world stage and beyond the London underground club scene.
On his second full-length album, R.Y.C, Mura Masa again looks back, this time not only sonically but also thematically. R.Y.C is short for “Raw Youth Collage,” and throughout the 11 tracks, he explores the feelings of escapism, depression, and hopelessness that pervade adolescence while also touching on sweeter, more sentimental memories. Unfortunately, Mura Masa does little to provide any original or personal commentary on these themes and instead succumbs to overused tropes already worn out by the indie and emo scenes of the past.
The opening lines of the first track, “Raw Youth Collage,” are generic without being relatable. “Good times / That place we used to hang out / That thing we used to do / Was it ever even there? / I miss it,” he sings. If Mura Masa had added personal details to later verses to help explain his connection with these broad strokes of pathos, perhaps the song would be rendered more powerful. But without any further exploration, the track is left emotionally vacant and empty. He gives a rough outline of nostalgia, but with none of the sulking blues and angstful reds that color the experiences of our teenage years.
Mura Masa offers no new perspective that helps us envision his teenage years or better contemplate our own. Toward the end of the album, he sings “I’m like a runaway train,” lazily employing a cheap comparison that tells us what we already know about him and ourselves: Our teenage years were sometimes a trainwreck.
The album references classics but fails to live up to its lofty aspirations. On “No Hope Generation,” Mura Masa’s marauding bassline recalls Joy Division’s “Disorder.” Despite the song’s clever lyrics and catchy drum beat, the “I feel so relaxed” chant at its end pales in comparison to the atmospheric desperation accompanying Ian Curtis’ cries of “feeling” that echo at the end of “Disorder.” On another track, “Teenage Headache Dreams,” the guitar riff is undeniably similar to the iconic melody of Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself,” an anthem of adolescent sexual frustration for the ages. While referencing the idols of music history can be endearing, Mura Masa’s ideas are neither original nor fully fleshed out, and they come across as cheap imitations.
Despite the forgettable lyrics and poorly done allusions, there are some bright spots on the album. The tracks “Live Like We’re Dancing” and “Today” feature jazzy vocals from Georgia and Tirzah, respectively, and are anchored by alluring instrumentation. Clairo also features on the third track “I Don’t Think I Can Do This Again,” an understandable choice considering Mura Masa’s move toward indie pop on this album.
Adding to the list of the album’s notable features is slowthai, who features on the grime and punk-influenced “Deal Wiv It.” On top of jarring, industrial production, slowthai provides his signature biting social commentary. “I went to the pub and asked for a pint for three quid / He said it’s a fiver, well that’s gentrification, you prick,” he raps. And yet, despite the potential of this song, it doesn’t nearly rival the global hit that was “Love$ick,” an infectious track featuring A$AP Rocky released on Mura Masa’s debut album. Whereas Rocky’s flow is memorable, slowthai’s cadence is incompatible with the instrumental of “Deal Wiv It.”
“Deal Wiv It” reveals the inability of Mura Masa’s album to make an impact as a whole despite some of its notable contributors and production value. There’s a diverse range of grime, punk, electronic, indie, and emo influences found throughout the album, but the loose themes of nostalgia and escapism are not enough to stitch the varied ideas together. The album ends with “(nocturne for strings and a conversation),” a pretty repetition of guitar chords that fades out insignificantly. The track is much like the album: a collage made up of some interesting parts that never quite come together.
Featured Image by Polydor Downtown Interscope