Live review: Mystery Jets

Arches North, Hinterland Festival, Glasgow Saturday, April 3

PA Photos
Pic: PA Photos
Was there more fun to be had in the summer of 2008 than toking on a fat one at a festival while singing ‘Two Doors Down’ in the mid-afternoon sun? Almost certainly, if you were really trying. But Mystery Jets’ pastel-hued retro-pop gem was a damn good song all the same. Two years on, however, and the bottom line for the Eel Pie Island quartet is that if you can’t cross over with a song that perfectly realised and catchy – which they didn’t in big money terms – you’re probably never going to cross over at all.

If the five new songs they preview tonight are any indicator, however, they’re still giving it a go. Mystery Jets work best as a bastard cross between A-ha and The Coral and opener ‘Flash (A Hungry Smile)’ is clearly designed to work as such, with its whooshing ’80s power-synths giving way to a milkman-bothering verse complete with whistles and lyrics about catching STDs.

Tonight is really all about new material, although Blaine Harrison’s new hair – grown out from rat-tails to a 1993-vintage Thom Yorke rawk mane – also deserves an honourable mention. ‘Lady Grey’ is one of those stately, psychedelic English pop songs they’re so good at writing, while ‘Dreaming Of Another World’ is catchy without ever being truly memorable. But by far the best is ‘Melt’, a sweet electronic soul standard-in-waiting.

Curiously, while highlights from ‘Twenty One’ are all present and correct, they play nothing from first album ‘Making Dens’, which raises the question of whether Mystery Jets 3.0 have outgrown their debut. It seems a bit severe; there are more than a few people wondering what became of ‘The Boy Who Ran Away’.

“I want to say thanks very much for sticking with us through these new songs,” says bassist Kai Fish at one point. “I know you don’t know them, but it’s fun for us to play them.”

Even though we grumble about the lack of ‘Zoo Time’ it’s fun for us to listen to them, too. MJ are probably still too schizophrenic for the mainstream, but they work fine on the fringe.

Barry Nicolson

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