After over a year of riotous gigs on Eel Pie Island and beyond, a handful of good singles, more press coverage than most bands are able muster in an entire career and an illustrious slot on a magazine-endorsed new music tour, London quintet Mystery Jets’ debut album is finally seeing the light of day.
Certainly, there was always the danger that their unusual and rather elongated back-story might overshadow the music, but with Making Dens, they have delivered 12 (10, if you minus an intro and an interlude) mostly excellent, hype justifying tracks that effectively constitute one of the albums of the year so far.
Whilst it is true to say that the compositions on offer tend to be slightly skewed, feature off-the-wall lyrics, witness spontaneous instrumentation and peripheral noises, they never fall short of being accessible. This is a pop record at heart, and one that tackles fundamental human emotions (primarily love, loss and death) that we should all be able to relate to.
Things open with You Can’t Fool Me Dennis, one of the most glorious pop songs you could ever wish to hear. Essentially a sad tale of a man dying a slow death, it’s turned into a euphoric, uplifting masterpiece replete with some wonderfully English lyrics about balmy days and always playing with a straight bat – American college rock this certainly isn’t.
Purple Prose, with its repeated hook of “Oh Cairo, where did you go?” is a tale of lost love dripping in nostalgia, and a delightfully catchy one at that. This is the draw of Mystery Jets – they have the power to turn sombre to cheerful, downbeat to optimistic; a real trump card if ever there was one.
The hits keep on coming thick and fast. The Boy Who Ran Away is a hook filled, juggernaut of a track; Horse Drawn Cart is a rather affecting slow burning piece; the tribal, primitive call-to-arms that is Zoo Time, featuring manic instrumentation and sparse lyrics, is an audibly pleasing assault on the senses; and the outrageously off-kilter, cabaret-like pop of Alas Agnes never fails to be utterly memorable.
But perhaps the album’s highlight and true centrepiece is Diamonds In The Dark, a last minute addition to brighten up the second half of the record. And it does so spectacularly, offering precisely what the title describes. A joyous, impossibly upbeat tale of falling in love for the first time, (“We danced all night and then we kissed, your smile, like diamonds in the dark”) its got future Mystery Jets classic written into its genes and just about pips Dennis in the best song on the album stakes.
Nothing for a moment threatens to sound at all the same – they’ve clearly worked hard to give each song its own distinctive, individual identity, for which they must be wholeheartedly commended. And for the most part, as outlined above, they manage to pull this off sublimely.
Of course, with this being a debut and one bustling with so many ideas trying to find representation, it’s not all perfect. There are a couple of tracks that fail to take off and search in vain for a melody or a hook (Soluble In Air, Making Dens), but this is true nit picking – and with the material around them so strong, it’s really quite insignificant. And on the whole this is a fantastic, passionate and wonderfully eccentric debut album that’s also a thrilling advert of what’s to come.