Mura Masa’s transformation, over the last year, has been surprising and joyous in equal measure. After a self-titled 2017 debut album of pleasant if indistinct festival-ready house bangers, Guernsey’s Alex Crossan flipped the script for the recent ‘R.Y.C.’, picking up a guitar, forming a band and singing for the first time. In turn he bottled millennial dissatisfaction. “If you’re smart right now, you’re making guitar music,” he told NME.
“This is technically our first gig as a band,” he explains towards the end of tonight’s London set (which might account for the nervous energy that twitches on stage throughout). “And everyone in my band is, like 12 years old.”
Some of ‘R.Y.C.’s more introverted moments fall flat. “It feels like we’re living in the end times — I can’t see past the screen,” he sings on the title track, with which he opens the set, bottling up the fear and anxiety that courses through the album. It’s a weird fit when stuck next to the breezy platitudes of the first album.
The new guitar-driven approach works in some instances: the punky ‘Vicarious Living Anthem’ sees the new band coming into their own brilliantly, and the euphoric ‘Teenage Headache Dreams’ represents widescreen, emotional bliss. The melancholy ‘I Don’t Think I Can Do This Again’, though, feels lightweight and lacking its on-record punch, even though Gen Z icon Clairo makes an appearance to croon through her verse.
The most successful bridging of the gap between the old and new Mura Masa comes when Slowthai barges out on stage for a thunderous smash through ‘Doorman’ and ‘Deal Wiv It’. Despite the controversy surrounding his recent appearance at the NME Awards, after which the Northampton rapper apologised to co-host Katherine Ryan for his “shameful” behaviour, Slowthai receives the biggest cheer of the night upon his arrival and it appears that, to the people of Ally Pally, all is forgiven.
What follows is a whirlwind smash through the most exciting 10 minutes the set has to offer and a declaration of love for the crowd upon his departure – though it would’ve been slightly wiser for the rapper to decide against launching himself into the front rows of the crowd to mosh during ‘Deal Wiv It’. “Slowthai there, with his own views,” Crossan deadpans as the rapper departs, a reference to Lauren Laverne’s arch comment about ‘Thai brandishing an effigy of Boris Johnson’s severed head at the Mercury Awards last year.
The set ends rapturously with a one-two of oldies ‘Love$ick’ and ‘Firefly’, but there remains a harsh distance between old and new, making for a lack of coherence across the set. Still: it’s commendable that Mura Masa has taken a risk by rolling out his latest vision at such a cavernous show, and it seem that there could be something special in the works when the creases are ironed out and Mura Masa’s past and present squeeze a little closer together.
Mura Masa played:
‘Raw Youth Collage’
‘I Don’t Think I Can Do This Again’ (with Clairo)
‘Nuggets’ (with Cosha)
‘No Hope Generation’
‘Vicarious Living Anthem’
‘Doorman’ (with Slowthai)
‘Deal Wiv It’ (with Slowthai)
‘In My Mind’
‘Foals’ – Night Swimmers (Mura Masa edit)
‘Live Like We’re Dancing’ (with Georgia)
‘What If I Go?’ (with Cosha)
‘Teenage Headache Dreams’
‘Firefly’ (with NAO)