Review: Mystery Jets - Curve of the Earth
Mystery Jets' latest album is a bit of a spacey surprise!
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Although Mystery Jets have been a band for 20 years, they broke through in the music scene a decade ago with the lead single ''You Can’t Fool Me Dennis'' on their first album ‘Making Dens’.
Since then, there have been two year gaps between each album release, with ''Twenty One'' in 2008 featuring the ever-popular tracks ‘Two Doors Down’ and ‘MJ’. Both albums had quite a rough and ready sound, with innocent vocals and catchy choruses.
The band have progressively become more electronic with ''Serotonin'' in 2010 and ''Radlands'' in 2012. The vocals are more muted and sullen, and the overall sound has moved away from British indie-pop, into a more of a 1980s soft rock. However, on both these albums the stand out catchy pop singles remain in the form of ‘Show Me the Light’ (2010) and ‘The Hale Bop’ (2012).
Finally, with an unconventional four year gap in between albums, ''Curve of the Earth'' came out this month. This signalled the band’s final step into a more psychedelic musical dimension, with this completely self-produced album in their home-made studio.
Lead vocalist Blaine Harrison has cited Pink Floyd and King Crimson as major influences and one can see how these come into play on this more melancholy progressive rock record. On the one hand, with this shift into the more mainstream Americana genre, Mystery Jets have created a more mature album, with textured production and a downbeat sound. On the other, perhaps the band have lost some of that innocence, some of that rawness which was so apparent on earlier records.
The leading track ‘Telomere’ is laden with syncopated guitars and mournful vocals which, for me, is very reminiscent of Muse’s ''The 2nd Law'' album (2012).
This psychedelic feel comes through across most of the following tracks on the album, including ‘Bombay Blue’ with its leading mystical piano and ‘Midnight’s Mirror’, which samples dialogue from Mike Leigh’s ‘Naked’. In this 70s galactic track, Mystery Jets also seem to be channelling the likes of Electric Light Orchestra with twinkling harmonies and the mesmerising bass-lines from the band’s latest member, Jack Flanagan.
Despite not having the recognisable pop single which appears on the band’s previous albums, Mystery Jets have scattered some glossy, poppy choruses across ''Curve of the Earth''. As the name suggests, ‘Bubblegum’ is a much lighter, catchier track, with nostalgic lyrics harking back to the innocence of adolescence. Similarly, ‘Saturnine’ is a lot less electronic, with more simplistic guitar melodies and wistful vocals from Harrison.
However, the band’s 70s influences are what come across most prominently on this album, as they channel King Crimson and ELO, likening their psychedelic sound to that of Tame Impala. ‘Taken By the Tide’ for example employs swelling organs and is led by a droning piano ballad. ‘Blood Red Balloon’ sounds almost like a movie soundtrack as it is well structured with layered harmonies and technically skilled guitar solos.
So if you were expecting a danceable indie-pop album reminiscent of Mystery Jets’ early years, ‘Curve of the Earth’ will take you by surprise. As the album title and artwork suggest, there is a definite galactic, spacey feel to it which certainly shows how the band have matured since their mid-noughties adolescence.
However, for me, the fact that their influences come through so evidently throughout, such as Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, takes away from the uniqueness and freshness which defined ''Making Dens'' and ''Twenty One'' all those years ago.