Big changes are afoot in the Mystery Jets camp. Just 2 weeks ago, we learned bassist Kai Fish left the band; maybe we should have taken the warning signs more seriously when he released ‘Cobalt Cheeks’ and went on tour as a solo artist last year? To be honest, I thought it was more of a “I’ve got to get this creativity out of my body” kind of move for Kai and not permanent. I laughed, loved and got my heart broken to ‘Serotonin’ – to say that it was an important album for me would be putting it lightly – so learning that Kai was leaving the Jets permanently, that was akin to a sucker punch to the stomach.
And then they went off to America, specifically Austin, Texas – imagine that, huh? – to record their fourth album ‘Radlands’. The words frontman Blaine Harrison had to say about the new material softened the blow of their bassist’s leaving, simply by painting a wonderful image of how lovingly their new album ‘Radlands’ was recorded:
“We’ve always wanted to make a record in America and after touring ‘Serotonin’ the time felt perfect to go and do it. Our first three albums were entirely conceived and recorded in London so going out to Austin felt like the furthest place from everything we knew. We arrived with a handful of songs, but one in particular felt like it captured the spirit of why we had come there. It was called ‘Radlands’ (a fusion of the 1970s [American director] Terrence Malick film ‘Badlands’ and Redlands, Keith Richard’s Sussex estate), which is also what we named our studio; a big old wooden house on the banks of the Colorado river.
All we brought on the plane were the guitars on our backs, so we ended up borrowing all this amazing valve gear from an old guy called Jack who ran a little studio up in the hills-which is why the songs sound the way they do. In the daytime we wrote lyrics on the porch and in the evenings a family of deer would gather in the back yard to hear us play. Some nights we drove into town to drink and bring people back to play on the songs.
When we arrived home, it was hard to believe any of it even happened. It somehow all felt like a strange dream. But when Dan Carey heard it and invited us down to his studio we listened back to everything and it was all there, it was real. All we were missing were some gospel singers, which he found in the Streatham community ladies choir…
Twelve months on, and we are gearing up to take Radlands on the road. Its [sic] been a long time and we cannot wait to see you all again.”
The song the band decided to release in video form, just 2 days after Kai Fish’s official announcement that he would be leaving Mystery Jets, is ‘Someone Purer’. Despite the idyllic deer scene you’ve just read as described by Blaine Harrison, there is something sinister in the first 2 minutes or so of the song. The jangly guitar seems angry, or at least restless; Harrison’s vocals are tinged with sadness. Take a look at the first verse:
I was gripped with a bitter fear,
worried the one thing that I loved,
back when I was just a kid,
might now never be enough,
That the body I was in,
might belong to someone else,
someone kinder, someone surer,
young and beautiful,
Perhaps by accident but as sure as the day is long, Harrison has managed to distill the loss of innocence in ONE VERSE. In the next verse, he toys with existentalism. This is followed by a blindingly perfect pop chorus ending with the immortal line “nothing really means nothing / and it’s the saddest thing I know / so deliver me from sin / give me rock ‘n’ roll”. Without falling deep into dirge territory, the song is ‘saved’ (no pun intended) from this seemingly freeing, light refrain.
There’s later mention of the devil and washing away of sins, which oddly stirred strong feelings in this agnostic/atheist. Is he singing about how the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle requires you to give everything up for what you think is salvation? And is it really salvation, or something else sinister in disguise? Or is he speaking of the mortality of mankind in general? What is it that he’s alluding to? I’ve no idea of course, but I always think the best songwriters are at their pinnacle when they’ve written songs that allow for open interpretation. And when they’ve given us to think about. Whether or not you believe in God, divine being or beings, or none at all, this song is definitely food for thought.
In this one song, Mystery Jets have managed to show great maturity in their songwriting, no longer ‘Half in Love with Elizabeth’. They might be down one member from where they came from, but I can tell just from ‘Someone Purer’ they have a good idea where they’re going. And I’m following them. You in?
‘Radlands’, the fourth and next album by Mystery Jets, will be released on the 30th of April on Rough Trade Records. The band are currently on tour in the UK (details here) and will make appearances at the Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City in May. Below are the video for ‘Someone Purer’ and a trailer for ‘Radlands’.