Upon first hearing MoRo’s debut album, my first two thoughts were American and pop. I was surprised to learn that this four-piece band is, in fact, from London. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that I couldn’t pigeon-hole them into the pop bracket.
This band definitely has a poppy side, which is evident from the outset. Songs like ‘Now And Then’ (track 2), are reminiscent of an upbeat version of The Calling – armed with trumpets and a slight Motown twang.
“Slow River” is, in the band’s own words, an attempt to ‘make something uplifting’. The initial result is something that resembles Matchbox 20, but without their quirkiness.
The album continues in this vein, with the third track, ‘Clouds’, appearing to be the obligatory ballad in a collection of pop songs.
But then, seemingly out of nowhere, come ‘Hummingbird’ and ‘1,000 Suns’ to herald a very different second half to the album. The guitars are allowed more freedom than in previous tracks, as are lead singer Steve Hughes’ vocal talents. Now MoRo start to occupy a space somewhere in between the lazy drawl of Starsailor and the almost Christian rock sound of Lifehouse.
The final track, which gives its name to the album, reinforces this transformation. Unlike the album as a whole, it begins slowly, and maintains a subdued tempo, seeking to make us feel Steve Hughes’ pain. To a certain extent, lyrics such as ‘I will never rush to heal what dried up long ago’ succeed in provoking sympathy.
Somehow becoming quite catchy without cheapening its meaning, the track is a strong finish to the album and convinces you that this band is very capable of memorable, meaningful songs.
This is something of a deceptive album. Like me, you could easily jump to the conclusion that this is a superficial, good-time album, from a band that sits firmly in the middle of the road. Songs such as ‘Numbers’ and ‘Something I Can Feel’ reinforce this impression.
Later tracks, however, reveal a more sophisticated side to MoRo, more akin to soft rock. Perhaps they’re caught in between the music they want to make, and the music they think the mainstream audience wants them to make.
If they’re after commercial success, they might just find it. But if they want to make a great album, they’ll have to try again.