Holding On to Country Life
Mystery Jets - Radlands (Rough Trade Records)
April 30, 2012
The recent departure of bassist Kai Fish doesn’t seem to have hindered Mystery Jets' fourth album Radlands. Recorded in Austin, Texas, this record has substance, and the Eel Island boys show they’re capable of evolving their sound without losing their quirk.
Vocalist Blaine Harrison recently explained: "It's a new era, it's a new band. That's what it has to be." There are certainly some melancholy moments, and the album’s feel is slower paced and darker in tone than previous upbeat offerings such as 'Serotonin', 'After Dark' or Laura Marling collaboration 'Young Love'.
Opening with the title track, Harrison’s first words are "# I’ve heard there’s a place where we go to die #". Feeling chirpy then, Blaine? Oh well, perhaps 'You Had Me at Hello' is more uplifting? Nope... "# I went to the desert because I wanted to find my pistol #," Harrison sings. It doesn’t matter though, because 'You Had Me at Hello' is a great song with a pumping bluesy bass line and some impressive guitar distortion.
Lead single 'Someone Purer' is a stand out track, and a certain summer hit. People at festivals the world over are going to be chanting the undeniably catchy chorus "# Deliver me from sin and give me rock'n'roll #". And someone tell me that the "# Whoa whoa ah ah ho ho #" refrain isn't a superb addition to this already infectious song and I’ll eat my cowgirl hat. 'The Ballad of Emerson Lonestar' and 'Take Me Where The Roses Grow' (a duet with Blaine’s other half Sophie-Rose Harper) are where the country influences really kick in as they sing of Lonestar flying above the mountains (and these two tunes sound like they most likely written while sitting round the campfire).
Whoever thought that Mystery Jets were just cool indie kids will be proven wrong by 'Greatest Hits', which sounds like a wicked blend between The Beatles and Stealers Wheel. On to 'The Hale Bop' and there’s '70s Bee Gees-inspired vocals galore, with plenty more Beatles influences thrown in there too. 'The Nothing' is another standout track, and the type of song that demands a dramatic video with girls spinning around in floaty dresses on summer evenings on a heath somewhere as the band croon "# Bring me back as something beautiful #". (That music video treatment's just an idea, by the way).
'Funky Sister Everett' bears similarities to earlier, more familiar Mystery Jets fare, and is necessary on this album to balance out some of the melancholy. Acoustic number 'Luminescence' is a tad forgetful, but pleasant all the same.
Final track 'Lost In Austin' is a rousing song and the lyrics ("# Take me to the edge, I’m not scared!/If we fall down, it doesn’t matter, we’ll do it all again #") are absolutely belted out. All in all, it's quite an apt way for a band who have recently lost their bassist to round off their spanking new album. It seems being a man down hasn’t dampened Mystery Jets' spirits, and any venom they may have felt has certainly been exorcised on Radlands. Mystery Jets are still alive and kicking, and their sound continues to evolve. It’s farewell to Eel Island chic and Texas stylings all the way.
words: Gemma Hunter
Mystery Jets play Highams Hill Farm on June 29 and LeeFest on June 30. Their summer festival schedule will also include Lounge on the Farm (July 6), Truck Festival (July 20), Leeds and Reading (August 24/56 respectively).