With each release Twickenham indie-rockers Mystery Jets have distanced themselves further and further from the sounds of their danceable debut Making Dens. It’s a trend that started with 2008’s Brit-pop tinged chartbuster Twenty One and that continues in unashamedly upfront manner on their expansive fifth full-length Curve of the Earth.
The Mystery Jets first offering since 2012’s acclaimed Radlands and their first penned without founding bassist Kai Fish, (replaced ably here by Peter Cochrane), Curve of the Earth sees the likeable lads ditch the heavy Americana tinge of their last record in favour of another genre with definitively American sensibilities, arena rock, with varying results.
When it works, such as on proggy lead single Telomere, or radio rock anthem in waiting Taken By The Tide, Mystery Jets new found love of spacious soundscapes, stadium rock riffs and philosophical lyricism is a magical concoction that promises to be the fuel that’ll provide lift off on a journey to the stratosphere of rock stardom that they’ve carefully charted over four records.
When it misses the mark, such as on the meandering Blood Red Balloon and Saturnine Curve of the Earth feels too little like Mystery Jets and too much like a tribute to prog rock heroes of yesteryear. On these tracks the hooks that made Mystery Jets are missing, leaving Blaine Harrison’s stellar rock voice without a melody to sink its teeth into.
In many ways this discrepancy between tracks on Curve of the Earth acts as microcosm of the lyrical narrative on offer. This is, for all intents and purposes Mystery Jets “growing up” record, and much like adulthood, Curve of the Earth exists mostly in the grey area. where the highpoints remain high but are few and far between and the low points are for the most part more middling and mundane.
The desire to not just feel more but to do so in order understand why that feeling exists and what it means, seems to underpin the record, as themes shift between the scientific, the spiritual and the everyday, with instrumentation taking a similar path.
Interestingly, despite their obvious desire to escape the confines of their own minds and their own past works, Curve of the Earth works best when Mystery Jets turn their focus inwards on album highlight Taken By The Tide an introspective pop infused number that offers the perfect balance between old and new.
If the record was filled with moments like this and Telomere, then there’s no question Mystery Jets would truly live up to the grandiose visions they’ve endeavoured to bring to life in this self-produced record (perhaps a producer could have helped them trim the fat). Instead Curve of the Earth is a solid prog-leaning arena rock record from a band who’ve been promising so much more. It’s not a bad record, by any means, it’s perfectly fine and the singles may yet lead them to the promised land, it’s just not the game changer they believe it is.
‘Curve of the Earth’ is out January 15, grab a pre-order here.