Part six sees the debut Mystery Jets offering tackled by Tara of [The Music Journal], a blog full of youthful exuberance, if a little light on posts. While their second album seems to have garnered the band a new fanbase, people like myself and Tara have a great affinity with their earlier material. Here's what she had to say about her favourite British album from the past two years:
Mystery Jets burst onto the scene two years ago (speaking of two years, happy second birthday Keep Hope Inside). They made their arrival amidst gallons of hype and promise, not failing to impress with their fantastical mix of progressive and pop. At the time they were being hailed as the purveyors of the short-lived "Thames-beat" scene, and while this label disappeared fairly quickly, the good music did not. No matter how many times you listen to the eccentric beauty of their debut album, 'Making Dens', it never stops pleasing, with its whimsical yet somehow quirky tales of love.
I think it was Damon Albarn who once said that a good album is like a good story (or something to that effect), and this album fits that description rather well.
Opening track 'Overture', conforms to its namesake, reminiscent of being sat at a show listening to an unclear, indecipherable medley of the songs you are about to hear; a quivering anticipation as the curtains begin to rise. And then it starts, the bold authority of 'You Can't Fool Me Dennis', with the band almost mockingly chanting "you can do anything you want, as long as it makes sense". And to a large extent that is what the band did with 'Making Dens' – they did what they wanted, they went for meandering over mainstream, and with many bands it wouldn't have worked. But when you listen to this album, it really, really makes sense.
The bouncy yet nostalgic homage to Woody Allen comes next, in 'Purple Prose', chockfull of playful yet poignant lyrics, followed by the delicate elegance of 'Soluble in Air'. Suddenly you find yourself catapulted into the rollicking upbeat tale of 'The Boy Who Ran Away', bursting at the seams with catchy hooks.
After this, the listener is given a break, as a reader would come to the end of a chapter, or an audience would come to the interval. This break comes in the form of the hazy, mellow instrumentals of 'Summertime Den'. Then the listener is soothed back into the second half with the wistful beauty of 'Horse-Drawn Cart', with dramatic yet sincere vocals from singer Blaine Harrison. "If you don't trust me, I'll fall", he utters over and over, like a mantra, almost as though he is begging. Twinkling glockenspiels lead us out of this reverie into the frantic schizophrenia of 'Zootime'. An aggressive, manic track, the stark lyricism (mainly tribal chanting of "Zootime") adds to its sensational sound.
Next is the stripped-down, stunning melancholia of 'Little Bag of Hair', an eerie recounting of life in a hospital. "At my fingertips enough morphine to put me in a death" is one of the many vivid, terrifying yet wonderful images brought forth in the lyrics. It's the sort of song that makes you shiver in awe.
And just when you're ready to wallow in misery, you're greeted by two utterly fantastic pieces of pop music. 'Diamonds in the Dark' is as shimmering as the title might suggest; an impossibly catchy story about first love. Then the joyous, upbeat insanity that is 'Alas Agnes', reminiscing with adoration an artistic ex who "dumped [him] for a prettier muse". Calm is then restored in the closing credits, in the not quite lullaby, not quite march of title track 'Making Dens.'
It's an album not like any other, full of wondrous twists and turns, joviality, but most importantly its sheer sincerity. Throughout the album, when Blaine sings you are immediately enraptured, because everything he sings is heartfelt and unfeigned. I'm not kidding myself; it might never go down as one of the best British albums in anyone else's books, but to me it's already a classic. If other bands had tried a similar concept it would have been somewhat sheepishly, delivered half-heartedly, and they would have failed. It is the vigour, the youth, the passion, and the boisterous energy that makes this one of my favourite albums of the past two years.
Mystery Jets - 'Making Dens' (released March 6th 2006)
[Mystery Jets MySpace]
MYSTERY JETS - DIAMONDS IN THE DARK
Buy the ltd ed digipack version of 'Making Dens' from [HMV].