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The Band That Ran Away
on 10 March 2006
There's something to be said about looking, and sounding, like four anonymous blokes from Sheffield; it means that people will pay a lot more attention to your music than your persona. For those of you who think being different in itself is always a good thing, take a look at the Mystery Jets. Cor, what a crazy bunch they look eh? The lead singers on crutches! His dad's in the band, and he looks like a sinister Roger Waters! The rest look like gypsies from a Just William book! And what's the music like? Oh, er, I wasn't paying attention.
Which is a shame, because underneath their "We're mad, us" image, the Mystery Jets are a band with tremendous potential. The first track off Making Dens, You Can't Fool Me Dennis, is absolutely undeniable- a 21st Century Arnold Layne, a wonky, danceable gem which doesn't sound like you've heard it a hundred times before. This is the key to the band's charm- although ostensibly using instruments that have featured in every lumpen Oasis rehash from here to 1984 (to 1984!), they gleefully throw them together into new, bewildering, and often quite brilliant shapes.
Unfortunately, this everything-goes policy is also the Jets' biggest weakness. Tracks like Purple Prose and Soluble In Air sound like they were great fun to make, but they're just formless splurges- I can't remember how the former goes even after having listened to it all week. Similarly, it's quite hard to tell what the band are actually about. Baroque fantasies about prebuscent tear-aways and copper caravans are all very well, but what does it all mean? What do they think? Alas Agnes is of course a cracker of a tune, but why bother penning a story about a fling with a transvestite if you don't involve yourself in it somehow, instead of coming across as just pointing and laughing at weirdos? The title track begins as a memoir of childhood escapism, before intruigingly weaving in a strand about love lost, as if the protagonist's obsession with making dens meant that he was not paying attention to what was going on right in front of him. Sadly, the song doesn't manage to realise it's potential; it seems that the band like "making dens" so much that they didn't even see this possibility.
Mystery Jets are a great band, and I urge you to go see them live as soon as possible. However, their album is a mess, bursting with invention, mired in whimsy, crippled by knee-jerk eccentricity. They probably didn't intend it any other way.