Blessed with a remarkable story, Mystery Jets seem like a band that you’d want to sign immediately after reading their bio before you’ve heard a note of their demo tape.
The backdrop features a boy with spina bifida, growing up in London with a caring father hell-bent on helping his son find a hobby that takes his mind away from the physical ailment while not being limited by it either. The son, Blaine Harrison, soon discovered that music was much more than a hobby; it became a passion. To facilitate this, his father helped with filling in the open slots until he eventually became a permanent member.
From there, Mystery Jets began a journey of limited edition singles, vinyl e.p.’s, and word-of-mouth after-hour gigs. Along with that D.I.Y. business model came the obligatory eye of the British press that provided the band with the obligatory amount of notoriety to give gave Mystery Jets a brush with the UK charts.
That brush has lit a fire under the band to the point where they are pulling out all the stops for album number three, Serotonin. It’s quite clear that Blaine and company are pining for a way up, pondering life on terra firma with an album that’s heavy on pop-rock hooks while virtually ignoring the Syd Barrett worship of their earlier work.
Backing up their upward trajectory, Mystery Jets have secured a big-name producer that not only possesses more name recognition than the band themselves, but one that probably twiddled the knobs on close to half of your own desert island discs (Roxy Music, Sex Pistols, Pulp).
Chris Thomas brings Serotonin a punchy and radio-ready mix that totally disregards any sense of underground, which may end up alienating older supporters while drawing in new ones. He puts their big melodies and memorable hooks way up front while the band members try to use all of their pop sensibilities to separate themselves from every other Arcade Fire wannabe.
Unfortunately, Thomas can’t do much about the band’s limited songwriting skills that manage to knock down any sense of maturity the band builds with their fuck-all pop sweetener.
“Have you heard the birds and bees / have all got s.t.d.’s / I’m beggin’ darlin’ please / I wanna see you on your knees,” Blaine sings on “Flash A Hungry Smile,” completely oblivious to the stupidity of the line.
But with its kazoo guitar and infectious whistling during the verses, you’re reminded of another strangely infectious pop band—XTC—even while Mystery Jets still has a way to go to get close to Andy Partridge’s level of cleverness.
However, if you can forget the idea that Serotonin is something more than a weirdly executed pop record, you’ll begin to loosen up and enjoy the band’s extra tablespoon of sugar in their own baby lemonade.