Five of the best: Mystery Jets

Ben Smith selects five of the best from across Mystery Jets incredible shape-shifting back-catalogue.

Ben Smith

Last updated: 18th May 2016

Image: Mystery Jets

When a bright-eyed Mystery Jets burst out of the blocks with debut A Decade Of Dens they exclaimed "You can do anything you want if it makes sense" on album track 'You Can't Fool Me Dennis'. This has became the de-facto mantra of the Blaine Harrison fronted band, now five albums in, after they've juggled sound and concept from album to album like a monkey with a rubix cube. 

Mad on Syd Barrett, Blaine formed the band at a youthful age with his Dad William drafted in on bass. They were called the Misery Jets, only switching names after Blaine misspelled their name while painting it on a drum kit.

It'd be easier to fathom the band's roots by flipping their entire discography on its head; if misery, or atleast melancholy and the hedonistic rock influences of Pink Floyd were to be found anywhere it'd be on the band's latest works. 

Their most recent record Curve Of The Earth was reacted to with wide-acclaim, showing a further evolution the band changing its stripes. 

In turn they're popping up everywhere this festival season including Shrewsbury Fields Forever, Field Day and Tramlines. With all of those dates ahead and more, Ben Smith dives into their back-catalogue and picks out five of the best.

Alas Agnes

As the plot goes, a young fellow commits his undying love towards a transvestite named Agnes, by proceeding with a back-street sex-change. Unfortunately the feelings aren't mutual, and it all ends in tears after they meet at Kings Cross Station.

This leaves no reason for us to speak sonically of the song, but we can't ignore Kapil's sublime drumming, quite terrific harmonies and William Rees frantically working the fret. The album version was mixed by Simian Mobile Disco and TLSP's James Ford, not bad for a bunch of indie upstarts, ey?    

Flakes

Arriving on second album Twenty One, 'Flakes' isn't the most obvious choice of this bunch. It was a record released during the dying embers of the indie landfill and helped separate the band from that with eighties brushed pop songs that sprang like Mexican jumping beans.

By now the Mystery Jets had worked with some heavily reputable names including Erol Alkan, a youthful Laura Marling on 'Young Love' and this song just so happened to attract a cover from an emerging Florence + The Machine.  

Of course it takes only a voice as fine as that of Florence Welch to do Blaine's soaring vocal any justice on this bluesy number. But it's the Mystery Jets version we adore most on a song that'd probably have took centre-stage were it not for the more radio-friendly singles on the album. 

Show Me The Light

Now signed to Rough Trade after cutting ties with 679 Recordings, it was clear that it wasn't just the record label they'd disbanded when they released third album Serotonin.

It's referenced as their coming-of-age opus, a record that they labelled as "quintessentially Mystery Jets". In hindsight it's where their deeper cut lyricism began and they ditched any post-Libertines formula that everyone was guzzling down the drain. 

If we're to paint the transition, it's like they extracted a fossil fuel from the boppiness of their early cuts and rocketed beyond the earth's atmosphere to reflect on the perils of life.

On the surface 'Dreaming of Another World' makes sense then, but it's 'Show Me The Light' that showcases this chapter of the Eel Pie flag-bearers best. oozing with character, the songs invests in the dusting off of the flamenco and beautifully depressing lyrics for an all-out eighties rave up.    

Greatest Hits 

Recorded in a make-shift Texan country house on the Colorado River, after a surprise appearance at SXSW, Radlands shook off any glimmer of coherence from the previous record and delves into a dust-bowl of Americana.

Inspired by a fictional love tiff over a shared record collection, 'Greatest Hits' is Mystery jets at their hop-skipping, eccentric best. Mirroring 'Stuck In The Middle Of You', they quite brilliantly name-check records spanning from The Lemonhead's It's a Shame About Ray to Neutral Milk Hotel's In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

Note this lyric: "No way you're having 'This Nations Saving Grace' you only listen to it when you're pissed/But when you sober it's always "Why the fuck are you still listening to Mark E.Smith?". Genius.   

Blood Red Balloon

After Kai left the band during Radlands, Jack Flanagan snapped up bassist duties on their most recent epic Curve Of The Earth. The result is a space-age conquest that reflects Syd Barrett's influence most. If Mystery Jets have mastered a point of their shape-shifting back-catalogue, it's with this record.

Despite all of the great songs on the album, 'Blood Red Balloon' plays out like everything you'd imagine a young Blaine dreamed up in his bedroom. It's euphoric, ambitious and most importantly accomplished.

Despite all of the space-age guitars, the soaring atmospherics, Flanagan's opening bass line and a Pink Floyd solo, it's Blaine's vocal that remains the centre-piece. If we're to take any consistency from across their back-catalogue, it's that they always seem to sneak a masterpiece beneath the singles.

Buy tickets for the Mystery Jets festival dates:

Field Day - Victoria Park, Saturday 11th - Sunday 12th June 

Shrewsbury Fields Forever - The Quarry, Friday 15th - Sunday 17th July 

Tramlines - Sheffield, Friday 22nd - Sunday 24th July 

Read our review of Mystery Jets 'Curve Of the Earth' 

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