Album Of The Week: Mo Troper – MTV

Our pick of the week’s new releases is the “embarrassingly personal” and utterly brilliant fifth album from guitar pop genius Mo Troper

Mo Troper gets mentioned so often in certain circles of the musical Twitterverse that wider acclaim felt almost worryingly inevitable. But if the man had any intention of staying low key, then he really shouldn’t have made a record like MTV. Not that this is the kind of record that propels an artist to festival headliner status. It’s more the kind of record that worms its way into every discerning listener’s collection, a TallahasseeAlien Lanes or Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. In years to come, it’ll feel like you always owned it.

The vinyl re-release earlier this year of Troper’s fourth record, Dilettante, sent up a flare. All of a sudden, it seemed way more people knew who Troper was, what he was doing and how good he was at it. Dilettante was clearly the work of a devotee of classic pop, from The Beatles and Big Star to Teenage Fanclub and Guided By Voices, with a fondness for noise and brevity that recalls Robert Pollard if he was more into The White Album than Who’s Next.

MTV (Mo Troper 5, just in case anyone’s feeling litigious) employs oppressive noise in engaging ways, especially on the double whammy of ‘Power Pop Chat’ and ‘Royal Jelly’ where Troper seems to be burying his thoughts and feelings under layers of feedback and distortion. On the latter in particular, he seems to reach a point of vulnerability that even he is uncomfortable with, using the squall as a defence mechanism.

Mo Troper - I Fall Into Her Arms

The counterpoint to all that noise is some of Troper’s prettiest melodies to date. The afore-mentioned ‘Royal Jelly’ gives way to the stunningly lovely ‘I Fall Into Her Arms’, rendered painfully vulnerable by Troper’s helium-infused voice singing: “Now I’m not afraid to die, now I want to stay alive. I’m so happy I could cry when I fall into her arms”. It’s one minute and thirty-four seconds of tear-inducing bliss. 

Similarly gorgeous are ‘Under My Skin’ – which sounds like classic British invasion pop played at the wrong speed on an old boombox – and ‘I’m The King Of Rock ‘n Roll’, even if it opens with the line: “I made myself throw up for the second time today”. Troper admitted on Twitter that the album is “embarrassingly personal” but it’s that detail and honesty that makes MTV so affecting, whether it cloaks its confessionals in noise or pretty melodies. 

All the above is in danger of skipping over Troper’s delightful sense of humour. ‘No More Happy Songs’ encourages repeat plays, as much for its wonderful descending chords as the line: “They never suffered for their art, it’s got the depth of a wet fart, with none of the solid parts.” ‘Tub Rules’ suggests its about to reveal said rules before abruptly ending and moving on, leaving the listener none the wiser about how exactly to conduct themselves in the tub. The witty pun at the heart of Simon & Garfunkel pastiche ‘The Only Living Goy In New York’ would be enough, but the song itself is perfectly constructed and painfully observed.

We’ve mentioned before in these pages about the latest coming of power pop. Troper is a key voice in that movement along with other talents from 2nd Grade to Tony Molina. None of them could really be recognised as power pop as handed down by The Raspberries or The Shoes, but that’s what defines this new breed: an inventiveness that defies convention as much as it’s in its thrall. If this is the future of “guitar bands” then the future is bright indeed.

MTV is out on Friday 2 September.