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Mystery Jets - 'Serotonin' (Rough Trade)

Eel Pie Islanders plunder their broken hearts to come back scrubbed up and self-assured for a glorious coming-of-age

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As introductions go, [a]Mystery Jets[/a] knew how to make a good impression back in 2005. What a joyfully bizarre romp of a first meeting it was: impromptu gigs in an Eel Pie Island boatyard heralding their arrival. A dad in the band. Deliciously uncool [a]King Crimson[/a], [a]Pink Floyd[/a] and [a]Yes[/a] records ransacked for inspiration, and setlists that saw sunny indie singalongs segue neatly into epic 11-minute prog instrumentals. A jumbled bunch of madcap influences, wide-eyed romance and classic British eccentricity somehow harnessed, explored and laid out for all to see. And yes, like many of their peers they adored [a]The Libertines[/a], but unlike the rest, they did anything but blindly follow.

But while these musical japes certainly served their attention-grabbing purpose, it couldn’t carry on forever. You see, we’ve all got to grow up sometime; even playful little tinkers like this lot.

Kiss goodbye then to the scatterbrain, quirky clatter and ruffled rag-tag attire of their youth, and the blatant, and ultimately rather throwaway pastel-hued stab at the mainstream of last instalment ‘21’ – it’s long gone, replaced for this much-anticipated third offering with a much deeper take on things. Increasingly self-assured, sophisticated, scrubbed up nice and proper, cinematic pop; 2010 brings the dawn of [b]‘Serotonin’[/b]-era Mystery Jets, a perfect response to all that has gone before.

So what’s prompted the newly ramped-up yet reflective sound? Well, a whole two years of loving and leaving if the lyrics of ‘Serotonin’ are to be believed. And the poignant and painfully honest nature of these 11 songs is one of the most obvious signs of the band’s growing maturity. They properly bare their souls for the first time, and it hits us early on as opener [b]‘Alice Springs’[/b] asserts, “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have lived and never loved anyone”. “[i]I’d stand in the line of fire for you/I’d bend over backwards for you/I’d do anything that you want me to do/’Cos I don’t have nothing if I don’t have you[/i]”, soars the chorus, before they realise that they were “[i]too young to know there was something wrong” on [b]‘Too Late To Talk’[/b] and then, sadly, end up “[i]exchanging love for an empty glass[/i]” on [b]‘The Girl Is Gone’[/b]. It’s an about-turn of the heart that forms the album’s core, as every element of a relationship (from first chemical fizz to falling head over heels, niggling doubt and harrowing break-up) is placed firmly under the Mystery Jets microscope and plundered for all of its pop worth.

And while thematically [b]‘Serotonin’[/b] has got more emotional twists and turns than a modern day romcom (the ‘are they, aren’t they?’ lyrical nature of the tracks proving particularly compelling), the music, conversely, propels us on a dizzy spin to the dancefloor. It’s a rather gloriously un-hip dancefloor, mind; as the scratchy, psychedelic sprawl of old has been smartened up somewhat by producer Chris Thomas, with the band instead summoning shimmering ’80s synths and huge ELO-esque harmonies to pepper their sound, along with bombastic power riffs straight from a Supertramp album – perhaps most thrillingly exemplified on [b]‘Lady Grey’[/b] and the mighty [b]‘Show Me The Light’[/b].

You’ll already know lead single [b]‘Dreaming Of Another World’[/b] by now, but as well as being pure escapist pop, it encapsulates perfectly the spirit of Mystery Jets today – making so much more sense when you hear the rest of the album. There’s talk of shedding skin, treading new ground and most importantly head-in-the-clouds ambition; something that seeps out of ‘Serotonin’’s every pore – they’re seeing things in widescreen these days. And while it’s a wiser and more weathered quintet that greets us in 2010, the Londoners return not bruised or broken but infinitely more polished and positively bursting with ideas, passion and optimism. Grinning and singing through the melancholy of a love sadly lost but most definitely savoured. A survival that has unquestionably been the making of them.

[b]Camilla Pia[/b]

[i]What do you think of the album? Let us know by posting a comment below.[/i]

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Video: Mystery Jets - 'Dreaming Of Another World'

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