The one-time Thamesbeat troubadours from Eel Pie Island may not have traveled far for tonight’s gig but they’ve certainly come a long way since emerging from the mid 2000s scene that also spawned the likes of Jamie T, Good Shoes and Larrikin Love. Mystery Jets were peddling sixth form psychedelia back then, and the singer’s Dad played rhythm guitar; an intriguing feature of their early gigs.
Everything changed when they ditched prog for pop on the masterful “Twenty One”Â record of 2008. Hits like “Young Love”Â and “Two Doors Down”Â made it difficult to reconcile the new radio-friendly version of Mystery Jets with the one that previously went around chanting “Zoo Time”Â while banging glockenspiels. It is telling that not a single song is played from debut album “Making Dens”Â tonight. It’s as if they’ve disowned it.
This (almost) homecoming gig is a good chance for the band to try out songs from their new album – the excellent Americana-tinged “Radlands”Â ”â before they hit the road for real. Nightclub gigs are always interesting affairs. There are burly bouncers on the door, overseeing airport style security procedures and patting down punters to confiscate contraband chewing gum. I don’t know why they bother, because the floors are sticky enough as it is. And don’t get me started on the bar queues.
Mystery Jets arrive on stage just after 11 and open with the Maccabeesy “Someone Purer”Â, the first single from “Radlands”Â. They’ve got a new bassist, having recently parted company with childhood friend Kai Fish. There is also an additional pedal steel guitarist to bolster the sound. But you can’t really tell if you’re stood anywhere near the back of the crowded club.
The sound is much better down the front and next up is “Half In Love With Elizabeth”Â, after which singer Blaine Harrison, looking resplendent in a bright white suit jacket, shouts “Come on Kingston”Â; a clarion call to the suburban Thursday night revelers. But it’s not long before the singer gets a shirt thrown at him from some dickhead in the crowd, which he dodges with aplomb.
Serotonin levels surge as the title track from the third album, err “Serotonin”Â, really gets people dancing. Blaine then reaches for his acoustic and unleashes new song “Greatest Hits”Â. Telling the tale of a couple having to divide their record collection following a breakup, it namechecks some of the coolest records ever made and features the fabulous lyrical couplet “No way you’re having ”ËThis Nation’s Saving Grace’, you only listen to it when you’re pissed/when you sober up, it’s always why the fuck are you still listening to Mark E. Smith?”Â It’s another classic pop song written with a broken heart.
“Sister Everett”Â (about a business card carrying nun the band met on a flight to the States) then segues into a blistering “Veiled In Grey”Â. Mystery Jets are on great form and it’s clear they still enjoy playing these small gigs. The band are joined by Sophie Rose Taylor to duet on “Take Me Where The Roses Go”Â but sadly; Laura Marling doesn’t join the band to duet on “Young Love”Â ”â she must have been washing her hair. It still sounds great though, as does “Two Doors Down”Â.
“Behind the Bunhouse”Â brings the set to a close before an encore of “Alice Springs”Â and “Flash A Hungry Smile”Â. They say farewell with the beautiful “Flakes”Â which sees arms aloft and moving from side to side as one. There are even a couple of lighters on display until the bouncers snuff them out.
Choruses as big as this should be ringing out in stadiums, not inner-city nightclubs. Mystery Jets have got the songs (from albums two to four) to be much bigger than they are, and I momentarily feel a twang of injustice on their behalf. That soon goes though, because there’s another two hours of indie anthems to dance to.
It’s a great night and on the strength of the new record and this performance, Mystery Jets have cemented their position on the must-see list at this summer’s festivals. Go see them.
All words Martin Leay. More by Martin can be found here.