The backstory of Mystery Jets suggests a much stranger band than they are. They hail from a tiny place called Eel Pie Island (population 120), were founded by a prepubescent Blaine Harrison and his father, Henry, who started playing music together to provide a hobby for Blaine that wouldn't conflict with his physical disability. (He has spina bifida and walks with crutches.) Their early work owed as much to prog and psych as it did to pop, and many mused that their third album would see them returning to the stranger side of the spectrum.
It's been a pretty bad fortnight for those who like public services, the public sector, welfare, the poor, and the middle classes, thanks to our wonderful chancellor. We all have to accept the cuts – our economy is in danger of doing a Greece or something. Now is not, therefore, a time to take financial risks. Mystery Jets have taken the lessons of the recession to heart.
It's not been the easiest of transitions between albums for Mystery Jets. Without a label following their wonderful second LP, Twenty One, the four-piece at least found a new home on Rough Trade for this third. And judging by its content, the intervening years haven't been without their personal struggles either. From the paradoxically upbeat shimmer of The Girl Is Gone to the epic tragedy of Lorna Doone, the album heaves and thumps under the weight of heartbreak.
Serotonin is Mystery Jets' third album for a third record label yet, a fact that speaks volumes about the difficulty the band seems to have in finding its path. Even if they remain hugely talented and each of their records is impeccably realized, one cannot help but feel that Mystery Jets may still be looking for their place in the world, both artistically and commercially. Legendary producer Chris Thomas is brought on board to reshuffle the deck, which seems a smart move considering that Mystery Jets are -- as many bands of their time -- musical chameleons with an encyclopedic obsession with pop history.
Mystery Jets have seemed to always be on the cusp of something-- it's a story so built for a "Where Are They Now?"-themed future issue of MOJO. The UK pop-rockers emerged in 2006 with obscure upbringings (the holy-shit-is-that-a-real-place Eel Pie Island), a strange lineup (one of their guitarists, Henry Harrison, is the 60-year-old father of lead singer Blaine Harrison), and an exuberant, prog-leaning debut, Making Dens. 2008's tepid follow-up, Twenty One, found the Jets with a minor hit on their hands, the polite Cars hat tip "Two Doors Down", but the milquetoast, mid-tempo material it accompanied lacked the inventiveness and general freewheeling fun of their first effort.
Mystery Jets are the inheritors of Britpop. Serotonin is produced by Chris Thomas, whose career has spanned decades of British pop, working with bands like Pink Floyd, the Sex Pistols and Pulp. The album has a huge production to go along with that résumé, but the key to this album is melody. Mystery Jets write melodies so catchy that they sound like songs you’ve already heard—which is arguably the hallmark of every great pop song.
A varied, touching, excitable and witty third album from the ambitious Londoners. Lou Thomas 2010 Twenty One, the 2008 album which yielded Mystery Jets’ astonishing single Two Doors Down, was a step up in ambition and quality from the band’s bright 2006 debut, Making Dens. Neither album quite delivered on the band’s supreme early promise but, at last, Serotonin is the real deal.