One look at the front cover of South London's Mystery Jets leaves you thinking "oh God, they've made a country album!" Alas, it's not all Billy Ray Cyrus, so it should hopefully not be leaving a legion of confused and angry fans of the shiny indie-pop stylings of Twenty One and Serotonin-era Jets in its wake.
The Texas picture at the front does not merely mark a change in musical direction, after all this is the first album recorded by the band outside of the UK. On their fourth outing as a recording band they upped sticks to Texas, teaming up with fellow Londoner Dan Carey for production duties. Carey has a real knack for giving bands that finishing touch to an album and really helps them no their way to achieving the sound they're after, look no further than this years Something by Chairlift. He comes up trumps again here as the country-cum-indie sound is pulled off commendably, 'You Had Me At Hello' really demonstrates what I like to think the band were trying to achieve here. From the opening bass-line through to the anthemic chorus and well-implemented harmonies mid-song, this is a real demonstration of what mass-appeal Americana can sound like when done well.
'The Ballad Of Emerson Lonestar' hardly leaves the group's London-ties behind it, but rather than going along with the numerous alt-rock contemporaries it picks up where fellow London-dwellers Laura Marling and Mumford and Sons left off. On 'Luminescence' too, you get this same feeling of 'you can take the boys out of London but you can't take the London out of the boys.' While the songs are impressive, they hardly capture the authentic country sound Texas has offered for so long and as such they hardly leave a lasting impression.
From the almost-'Reckoner'-sounding guitar ditty that opens the titular opening track, the sense of maturity is immediate and not the only time you could question the band for some kind of plagiarism (see 'Young Love' and 'Way Back Into Love' comparisons). Whilst the band are leaning in a mid-South American direction now, rather than the hook-focused poppy indie they first achieved fame with, this is by no means another case of Elvis Costello's Almost Blue. The indie elements are still there ('Someone Purer' and 'You Had Me At Hello' in particular). Then again this is what made the Mystery Jets in the first place and despite the obvious desire for a major rework, they have only scratched the surface on what could be a complete reinvention of their sound. Whether this progression is for the better or the worse will be left up to the fans and buyers to decide.
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