Produced by Erol Alkan and Stephen Street
Label – 679 Recordings
Frankly, Mystery Jets’ debut “Making Dens” was a muddled concoction that floundered by the fact that it was attempting to encompass the influences of two generations. Whilst there were promising signals, particularly in the singles “You Can’t Fool Me Dennis” and “Alas Agnes”, the rest was a hotch potch of Indie/Pop/Prog ramblings that were probably the result of a misguided ideal that a father and son can sculpt a resonant sound from significantly diverse sources. Much of “Making Dens” was written by band leader Blaine Harrison’s father (and full time band member), Henry, and the impression one got from the overall result was that the remaining four members (including Blaine) were struggling to successfully interpret the paternal guidance. For “Twenty One”, Henry has relinquished the reins and left his son and the rest to develop their own style, largely leaving behind the musical complexity of the past, and opting for a mid 80’s Indie Pop sound that draws comparisons to The Cure (post “Pornography”). It’s hardly fresh, and occasionally the production is gruesomely polished, but the band seem to have injected some naïve charm into what amounts to a solidly coherent sophomore album.
Oddly, “Twenty One” starts awkwardly with the messy “Hideaway”, which ultimately doesn’t grab the attention intended by the opening air raid sirens. The balance is immediately redressed by the lead single “Young Love”, a sweetly melodic tumultuous relationship jaunt sweetly enhanced by guitarist William Rees’ dual vocals with the ever in demand Laura Marling. There’s little doubt that the direction is unashamedly radio friendly as “Half In Love With Elizabeth” and “Flakes”, and “Veiled In Grey”, lay a pop sheen that hide lyrics that are wry and considered, ably buried carefully beneath strong hooks and sunshine haze. For fans and critics “Two Doors Down” will scale both ends of the spectrum. Its complete cheese factor, and the awful Sax solo will surely test even their hardcore fan base, and yet there’s something intrinsically endearing when one considers the foursome’s deliberately optimistic attempt at creating music from an era that in recent times has been roundly ridiculed. It may backfire, who knows?
To all intents, “Twenty One” sounds more like the promising debut its predecessor never was.
1 Hideaway (6)
2 Young Love (feat. Laura Marling) (8)
3 Half in Love With Elizabeth (7)
4 Flakes (8)
5 Veiled in Grey (8)
6 Two Doors Down (7)
7 MJ (8)
8 Umbrellahead (6)
9 Hand Me Down (6)
10 First to Know (7)
11 Behind the Bunhouse (6)
12 21 (5)