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Mystery Jets
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  • Making Dens
  • Twenty One
  • Serotonin








  • Adrian's Album Reviews |

    Mystery Jets

    twenty one making dens

    Making Dens 8 ( 2006 )
    Intro / You Can't Fool Me Dennis / Purple Prose / Soluble In Air / The Boy Who Ran Away / Summertime Dens / Horse Drawn Cart / Zoo Time / Little Bag Of Hair / Als Agnes / Making Dens

    I'll get the two most often commented upon facts concerning Mystery Jets out of the way first of all, so we can concentrate on the music. Guitarist Henry Harrison is singer Blaine Harrion's father. Point number two, Mystery Jets have been open in their admiration for progressive rock. A refreshing change from the norm are Mystery Jets, everything about them is different from your regular new indie-guitar band. The look, the lyrics, the music, the time signatures. Often, Mystery Jets come across as XTC circa 1984 fast-forwarded in time twenty years to the present. Not the base punk-rock version of XTC mind you, Mystery Jets spread their influences wide to sound unlike any other single new band this decade. They play rock-pop music, they haven't reinvented the wheel, but they stretch their own limitations. Thus the strange time signatures, instrumentation and use of backing harmonies, something almost unheard of in this day and age. Most bands have trouble finding a lead singer who can sing, let alone produce two or three part harmony vocals reliably. So, what about that music then? Well, the prog-rock comparisons are misleading, Mystery Jets have no classically influenced guitar or keyboard solos at all. They don't sound like Victorian court-jesters either, they sound modern. Yet, after the brief intro of, er, 'Intro', we're plunged straight into the quirky 'You Can't Fool Me Dennis'. A pop song with eccentric lyrics squeezed into a pop structure and using little instrumental touches to raise the track above the mediocre. It's a catchy piece, and no mistake. It was 'Purple Prose' that convinced me, though. I've sat through endless new guitar bands in the past few years and only Mystery Jets have caused me to actually applaud at the end of a tune. 'Purple Prose' contains the lyric "I'm a tourist", a simple enough hook to fit into a chorus, you might think, and you'd be right. Rather than sing it straight though, they sing "I'm a tooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrr-aaaaaaaaah-oooooooorist. Aaaaaaaaaaah-oooooooorist", then follow this to sing about Cairo and oysters. Hither and dither indeed, as the song goes. It's magnificent, and one of the best new songs i've heard in an awfully long time.

    Anybody that has known my musical tastes for a long-time will also soon realise upon hearing 'Soluble In The Air' that of course i'm going to love it. More playful and entertaining vocals, more unusual poetic lyrics of a kind that aren't about taking drugs, getting drunk or pulling. Step forward prime-culprits, Arctic Monkeys. Mystery Jets have a little mystique surrounding them, which is great. Single, 'The Boy Who Ran Away' has a fantastic break in the mid-section of the song, a proper pop-song break of the kind Kaiser Cheifs probably couldn't even dream of in a hundred years, lacking imagination as they do. More entertaining vocal theatrics are a feature of 'Horse Drawn Cart', another song which packs in enough surprising and unusual instrumental sounds and touches to thrill. The old vocal harmonies arrive, all is well. 'Zoo Time' is the track that most resembles progressive rock, there's a section with plenty of bashing of drums, keyboard tinkling and odd things going on. It's followed on the album by the disappointingly drab 'Little Bag Of Hair', 'Alas Agnes' also does little for me, being a relatively straight guitar noise kind of thing. The title track contains lots of admirable ideas, although fails to hold itself together quite well enough. Almost as if too many ideas have been crammed in. 'Making Dens' is no masterpiece debut album, far from it. I've ended up giving it the same rating as Arctic Monkeys, but Arctic Monkeys have sold hundreds of thousands of albums and don't surprise us. Mystery Jets have released a fairly uneven debut album, but the highlights do surprise us and are very high indeed. So, in summary then? Well, my money is on The Mystery Jets to out-pace Arctic Monkeys and to have more lasting impact. Well, we can but live and dream.

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    top of page Twenty One( 2008 )
    Hideaway / Young Love (feat Laura Marling) / Half In Love With Elizabeth / Flakes / Veiled in Grey / Two Doors Down / MJ / Umbrellahead / Hand Me Down / First To Know / Behind The Bunhouse

    Ah, Mystery Jets return, having sacked their father and gone eighties pop. Well, not entirely, yet on quite a few tracks they use very eighties sounding synths in the background and, even more shockingly, it works. They discover how to write cracking pop songs too, in the vein of Peter, Paul and John. Mystery Jets own 'Young Folks' then is 'Young Love', they even recruit a female singer, Laura Marling. Ah, ah! Laura Marling is a goddess, so we don't mind that. She sounds a little Debbie Harry in this context too, rather sexy. Following such a pop gem we have another, 'Half In Love With Elizabeth'. The eighties synths parp away in the background, the bass lines are strong and the vocals verily hook-laden. Two such gems arriving side by side is like having a few slices of black forrest gateux all to yourself. You wouldn't want the whole thing though, or you'd be sick. Mystery Jets thankfully haven't forgotten completely the weirder, artier side of themselves and also provide some other kinds of gems to provide the sour to the sweet, so to speak. Before we go there, 'Two Doors Down' is the very best eighties/noughties hybrid i've heard in my entire life - they've managed to really plug into something here, offering 'newness' alongside music to please thirty and fourty somethings. As Frank Zappa once said, 'A little nostalgia for the old folks.'

    On the artier side ( well, the less poppy side, at least ) we have 'Flakes'. Now, none of 'Twenty One' resembles much of these guys debut LP. Still, 'Flakes' demonstrates at least a similiar ambition. The vocalist gets off on great big swooning falsetto and when the harmonies come in, this listeners heart simply breaks and falls together again in sheer joy. 'Veiled In Grey' also proves Mystery Jets haven't gone completely pop, although there's nothing in the instrumentation to suggest different from the Eighties hints everywhere. No, it's the lyrics and construction, both very good indeed. Overall then, we have a solid album that The Guardian newspaper have seemed impressed by even if nobody else has given these guys lots of press. Where we they on the Glastonbury TV coverage, have they even tried raising their profile? They deserve to sell more records than Gabriella Cilmi anyroad.

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    Serotonin 6 ( 2010 )
    Alice Springs / It's Too Late to Talk / The Girl is Gone / Flash a Hungry Smile / Serotonin / Show Me the Light / Dreaming of Another World / Lady Grey / Waiting on a Miracle / Melt / Lorna Doone

    Mystery Jets started life as some weird prog/indie pop hybrid and have evolved to the stage they are now at, an intelligent indie-pop, 80s glancing band creating quirky and occasionally irresistably well crafted songs - you can place them alongside Super Furry Animals if it makes you feel better although I don't like making such comparisons. Five minutes is too long for a rocky/poppy/indie song though and this is something Mystery Jets do a lot, get a good idea and melody that's almost but not quite strong enough and try and make an epic production out of it, 'Alice Springs' being one of the worst bloated offenders, a five minute song with enough ideas for around two minutes. It makes an average ELO albums seem like MTV Unplugged. They get it absolutely right however with the gorgeous harmony vocals and lazy feel of 'It's Too Late', a mini-pop masterpiece with weary lead vocals, those lovely backing oohs and aahs and pounding, Hal Blaine style drums. Overall yes, It's a Dennis Wilson beach-boys type song circa early Seventies and of course, I adore that. More please. Less please of 'Waiting On A Miracle', heavy-handed drums merge into the other instrumentation with the guitar becoming a rhythm, the bass not enough to be the lead and the vocals providing the only real melodic impetus. It all sounds a little messy and clumsy.

    'Flash A Hungry Smile' was a non-charting single that swells with a Super Furry Animals early period feel, all harmonies and mashed-potatoe instrumentation. The title tracks goes back to that 80s thing they did so well last album out, synths and pulsating bass both much to the fore. 'The Girl Is Gone' is, I suppose, the best pop song here. They keep things relatively simple, under four minutes and the vocal hook is strong. The rhythm section happily fails to merely plod uninterestingly away and the vocals and synths take preference. The guitars actually get something to do throughout 'Lady Gray' but the overall feeling of 'Serontonin' is just, what's it all for? One foot in alternative, one foot and a arm in the pop world and they need to do that, fully become a pop band that appear on daytime television. It's a niche the britpop bands fulfilled during the mid to late nineties and we don't really have an equivalent these days. Mystery Jets are capable of writing interesting and melodic pops songs a milk-man can whistle, there's just not nearly enough of them contained on 'Serotonin'.

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    this page last updated 18/09/11


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