Indie, New Prog band Mystery Jets releases their fifth album, The Curve of the Moon January 15, 2016. The band has been working serendipitously on the album since 2013 as a follow up to their critically acclaimed album, 2012 Radlands. The Mystery Jets have been adding and subtracting to the band’s line up throughout their existence, their latest incarnation has seen them renewed their dedication to the band’s creativity. The Curve of the Moon is the result of the band having taken their already strong musical instincts and refined them into an attempt at the definitive Mystery Jets album.
Mystery Jets was formed in the early 90’s on Eel Pie Island, Twickenham, London, UK while the teenage band members were still together in school. They would send each other songs on cassettes tweaking them with each member’s contributions. The band was so young that on their initial eponymous EP Blaine Harrison’s voice had yet to break. Mystery Jets members are; Blaine Harrison, vocals, guitar and keyboards and William Rees, guitar vocals, Kapil Trivedi on drums and new recruit bassist Jack Flanagan. The band was originally called the Misery Jets as an allusion to the fact that Eel Pie Island is directly under the main Heathrow Airport flight path. It is no surprise that fact makes living on Eel Pie significantly unpleasant. The name of the band was changed to Mystery Jets after Blaine Harrison had a bit of a misspelling accident while painting the drum skin for their live performances, there after they have been known as Mystery Jets. The band has become legendary for their “illegal” music parties held on Eel Pie. Mystery Jets lists their influences as Hall and Oates, Syd Barnett, Pink Floyd, Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Jimmy Hendrix and David Bowie, and has created an amalgam of experimental, psychedelic and prog rock sounds based on those influences.
On Curve of the Moon the band drew inspiration for their writing from “The Last Whole Earth Catalog”, a counter-culture magazine that was published from 1968 – 1972. It was a seminal environmental resource for its day. Blaine Harrison found out about its existence from a speech given by Steve Jobs. Harrison was grabbed by the overarching ethos of never losing the sense of innocence around you. That idea ended up being a springboard for a lot of the lyrical themes on the album. In the time period since 2013 the band has built their own studio in an old button factory and labored on the album attempted to do something they had not done before, get out of their musical bubble and leave their sonic comfort zone. They subsume some of their usual psychedelic prog reputation to present a more straightforward alternative rock sound. In addition they attempted to creative cohesive concept album instead of self contained unrelated singles.
The Curve of the Moon has an underlying theme of time changing friendships and the shock of suddenly not recognizing the face staring back at you in the mirror. The album opener Telomere Is a bold lyrical song, sonically swirling, earnest, majestic and atmospheric. Telomere by definition is “repetitive nucleotide sequences at the end of a chromosome, an essential part of the human cell affecting the cell’s age.” The song involves some pretty deep concepts beyond the usual boy/girl relationship arc as it reaches for something on a higher plain. The song speaks to the elemental reflected in the title with lyrics like, “the one thing they can’t take way from you, so don’t be afraid.” The song evinces great promise as various threads are woven into an engaging start to the album. Bombay Blue continues the superb musical craftsmanship, with an acoustic yearning ballad. It contains bittersweet reminiscences of the golden days of youth. The song turns on the theme of a love that has broken apart over time; “I can see how love becomes the enemy, you say there is nothing you can do, if that’s what you want you want to believe, but that is what they want you to believe.” It is beautiful conceived and performed song.
Bubblegum is again an introspective song that starts off with the lyric; “I swear someone is leaving messages for me under my feet in the bubblegum on the street”. The song speaks to letting go of the past and how hard that is to do. It recognizes that it is a never ending effort to improve yourself. The song itself is punchy and spacey and a very satisfying listen.
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Midnight Mirrors attempts a very sophisticated sonic construct of combining a funk, reggae and blues vibe making for an interesting song. The difficulty level on this song was high and the band deserves high marks for pulling it off. The song has a wonky “Alice in Wonderland” feel as it examines life on the road and the concert after party world. 1985 is a piano ballad that is both atmospheric and interstellar in sound. The track examines time and memory and how it twists and contorts and that impression and fact do not always mesh up accurately. “Time has passed and the past is just another place.” The song is emotive and evocative, a definite “do not miss” on the album.
It is at this point in the album that the band musically moves from a more direct sound to something more impressionistic. Blood Red Balloon has a trippy psychedelic feel more in keeping with the band’s prior works. There is a lovely acapella section and is a tasty tribute to the 90’s. Taken by the Tide is an acoustic mid tempo song that shape-shifts part of the way through into a rocker. It recalls youthful indiscretions and a broken trail of teenage relationships; again it is infused with bitter-sweet and evocative yearnings for a golden time in the past now gone forever.
Saturnine plays on the definition of the term, reflecting the moodiness that is by definition saturnine. The song is loaded with drifting swirling guitar work and a plodding beat. It is a track shot through with a trippy psychedelic vibe dispersed over a wide canvas. The beautiful heartfelt The End Up is a discourse on time again marching on, with friends growing up and taking on the adult responsibilities of marriage and family. It also questions if current relationships are going to last and whether who you end up with is fate or simply settling. The song contains a moving acoustic treatment in keeping with the musings of the theme. It is a touching sendoff to a great album.
In attempting to change things up Mystery Jets delivers an engaging release. Curve of the Moon is a marked departure from prior works. The release displays a band that has grown into another level of maturity in both their songwriting and musicianship. The release is a great entryway for those unfamiliar with their prior releases. Mystery Jets members show an originality and potential that has developed nicely, with the members’ youth allowing them plenty of time to expand and master their craft. The album does not veer outside of the parameters set for it. Curve of the Moon is a satisfying release and a nice start to the New Year.