Mystery Jets are a difficult band to pin down. They’ve had a sketchy history thus far, appearing to make large inroads across Europe but failing to ignite in America. Of course their U.S. album release history has been an odd one, with Dim Mak releasing a compilation of their early material in 2007 and nothing after that. Prior to that U.S.-only compilation, the band had released a full length in Europe. Since then, they’ve released another album “Twenty One” in 2008 via 679 Recordings. It did not receive official U.S. distribution. Now, thanks largely to a fresh deal cut with Rough Trade, Mystery Jets are officially poised to reach a full worldwide audience with their new record “Serotonin”. It’s out Tuesday, and the hope is it will satisfy fans of the band’s previous work while grabbing a whole new collective that’s never heard of them before.
Over the course of their first couple albums, Mystery Jets’ sound has somewhat changed. They’re now better at finding hooks and putting them to their best use, but the cost has been to take away some of their weirder quirks to head in a much more mainstream direction. The band’s last album “Twenty One” was the first strong step in that more standard pop direction, and it left fans of their debut “Making Dens” scratching their heads a little bit. The early stuff was so creatively fulfilling and had an air of true originality about it. The last record pulled back sharply on the psychedelia, along with some odd time signatures, to be replaced by verse-chorus-verse tracks with an 80’s synth flair. “Serotonin” continues that same pattern, maybe even on a larger scale than before. There’s a large number of songs that sound like a whole lot of fun and contain choruses that soar and bury their way into your subconscious whether you want them to or not. The lyrics also cover that one topic everybody can relate to – the ups and downs of love. Opener “Alice Springs” features a chorus where singer Blaine Harrison lists the things he’d do for a girl (stand in the line of fire, bend over backwards), because “I don’t have nothing if I don’t have you”. On “Too Late to Talk”, things are a little down and Harrison is wondering why his girl walked away from their relationship. It also contains the pretty brilliant line, “You were the apple of my eye/my Phoebe Cates from Ridgemont High”, which is only half a cliche. There are a fair share of lines across the album that use common phrases like “apple of my eye”, and while they can be associated with lazy songwriting, if they’re coupled with something smart it balances out the problem. Harrison only manages that about half the time.
“Serotonin” may not be the best record Mystery Jets have ever made, but what it lacks in creative brilliance it more than makes up for with fun and memorable songs. To put it another way, Mystery Jets have proven they can write majorly successful songs that audiences love, the question is whether or not U.S. audiences will be exposed to and embrace them or not. Europe has never been a problem for these guys, and hopefully this time around they’ll push harder for success in America. This record has the sort of content that will make fans of the first MGMT and Killers albums very happy. It’s 80’s nostalgia flavor put together in a very modern way. There’s hypithetically 4-5 legitimate singles on “Serotonin”, all that’s needed are a few forward-thinking radio people to put them on the air. Most music blogs will probably either ignore or get overly critical when talking about the album because it does sound like a lot of what’s already out in the marketplace. What sets Mystery Jets apart is their uncanny ability to write and compose songs that are more structurally sound than their peers. Coming up with a single smart hook is tough enough, but this band pulls it off half the time and shines above the rest because of it. Your mind may not be blown, but at the very least it’ll be distracted for awhile. It is summertime after all, and we need a break from the really “next level shit” now and then.