‘Twenty One’ should really be Mystery Jets’ coming of age. But it would hurt to see a band as flawlessly fun as the Mystery Jets grow up. The childish outer glow which stayed put amidst most of debut ‘Making Dens’ was charming and likeable, therefore with this new record, it’s only right that they get even sillier. Simply acknowledging the times, this second Mystery Jets record is a tribute to pop and an effort at evolving the ideas which come with the genre. They haven’t tried to make a complex, avant-grade record which makes everybody’s heads spin round in confusion, instead they’ve taken basic pop roots that have done other bands favours and have incorporated it all into their songs.
Lodged into these songs are tales of one night stands, insecurity, saying the right thing, saying the wrong thing. It’s a step in another direction - some fans will be annoyed and others will shimmer with delight. Of course there are some complexities in ‘Twenty One’- it’s not as if a ten year old could have written the record. See the backing guitar in tear-jerker ‘Flakes’ for an example. See the drastic chord changes which work so well in ‘Veiled in Grey’ for another. This is doubtlessly a clever record, but it’s done with subtlety. Blaine Harrison takes centre stage for the majority of the record, bar ’Young Love’, but while he’s doing so, every other member, even the now anonymous Henry, is playing their part with shy skill. Influences aren’t simply pop either.
There’s the psychedelic movement which has inspired the band so much, evident in highlight ‘Veiled In Grey’‘s chorus, “I'll bet you wouldn't believe me, if I whispered in your ear and said; I can see a pink elephant and it's standing on the corner of the bed” declares Blaine Harrison. It’s the most spine-tingling component on the album, raising many-a smile. This magical moment is followed up by ultimate-cheese in the form of ‘Two Doors Down’, almost Dirty-Dancing-esque once the rampant saxophone kicks in towards the end. Prior to that, you hear a stunningly fresh hit-in-the-making that gets you feet tapping away in an uncontrollable frenzy. The darling-featuring-Marling ‘Young Love’ is already an established 2008-gem, but it stands even taller when surrounded by two other crucial moments on the record.
Opener ’Hideaway’ starts off with a single siren sound but eventually evolves into a synth-heavy rapid-paced beast of a song which can only make you optimistic for the next ten songs you’re about to play. Also placed nicely next to the single is ‘Half In Love With Elizabeth’, a song that’s been moving around the fan-forums for quite some time in the form of new demo versions. Like many other songs on ‘Twenty One’, it could easily pass as a successful single. Harrison shouts with glee the disturbing lyrics “I knew that you were thinking of him last night 'Cos I saw the blood seep down to your toes”, progressive-thinking seeps in, as does a cheesy club-night drumbeat – it’s all pretty spectacular.
The only nitpick is that at some points, the album loses its ever-growing spark – only for a brief moment or so, in the shape of ‘MJ’ for example, which could be found a little too repetitive and despite secret-track ‘21’’s bravery, Harrison sounds like he might be getting a little too carried away with his vocals. Also whilst playing ‘First To Know’ in between the uptight ‘Hand Me Down’ and overwhelming closer ‘Behind The Bunhourse’, you notice that it doesn’t quite fit in. Nothing strictly flows with another in the record but this moment seems like a misfit more than anything else.
What’s so outstanding about ‘Twenty One’ though is that it’s the brave record that they’ve been promising for so long, despite the scent of simplicity that’s suggested after a brief couple of listens. There’s always more to discover after each listen and always so much more to get excited about after each listen. Even the likes of piano-led beauty ‘Umbrellahead’ are carefully thought out and flawlessly produced by Erol Alkan. It’s nothing like the atmospheric, united debut ‘Making Dens’ but it was never meant to be. Give this record more than one chance and you’ll reap the rewards of its complex and drastically slick essence.