Mystery Jets – ‘A Billion Heartbeats’ review: a timely plea for compassion and kindness

On their sixth album, the London indie veterans find a political voice which sets them on a whole new path

It could hardly be more timely – Mystery Jets have released an album that praises the NHS and calls for widespread kindness at a time when both have never been in greater demand.

But as the coronavirus crisis continues across the UK, this is far from an act of opportune marketing. Instead, the sixth album from the London indie veterans arrives half a year on from its planned release date, after frontman Blaine Harrison was forced to undergo emergency surgery.

Thankfully, the delay has taken away nothing from the album’s relevance. Here, Mystery Jets successfully transform into deft social commentators, powerfully dissecting the state of the world. Take opener ‘Screwdriver’, which sees the indie veterans employing thumping riffs as they tackle the rise of the alt-right and urge us to “fight them with love” on the stirring chorus. It’s a rousing call to arms, but also one that manages to maintain a vital degree of subtlety.

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The title track too is a slick dissection of our chaotic times, asking the listener to question why it “takes a tragedy to make our true colours come out?” The message could hardly be more relevant – is this why we’ve found ourselves clapping on the doorstep for our embattled health service in recent weeks?

But the album’s real moment of glory comes on ‘Hospital Radio’ – which the band previously described as their “ode to the NHS”. Harrison, who has lived with spina bifida his whole life, knows more than most about the true jewel in Britain’s crown – and it’s one of the most powerful songs of their entire career.

Delivering a spectacular thank you to Britain’s army of medical heroes, Harrison sings: “When you’re lying in your bed, old, soiled and screaming/Wondering when the hell it all went wrong/Wired up to keep your cold, cold heart beating/We will be the pill on the end of your tongue.”

It’s here that Harrison shines as one of Britain’s truly great but underrated lyricists, with an unflinching description of the crucial cradle to the grave service. Ultimately, Mystery Jets have delivered a record that manages to capture the zeitgeist – but also one that sets them on a new path with a refreshingly timely voice.

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With protest songs and celebrations of the NHS all part of their new identity, it’s a wildly successful take on the world at large as the band enter a new decade. Far from just indie survivors, it seems like these Jets have still got plenty of fuel left in the tank.

THE DETAILS

Release date: April 3

Label: Caroline International

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