Mystery Jets: Curve Of The Earth | Virgin Media
Mystery Jets: Curve Of The Earth

Mystery Jets: Curve Of The Earthby Ian Gittins | Rating: ★★★★



Mystery Jets have tried on so many musical hats over the last decade that their true face has often been obscured. If this shape-shifting has confused casual listeners, it may also have caused identity crises within the band. Guitarist Will Rees is keen to stress that Curve Of The Earth, their fifth album, is eschewing previous flirtations with "Americana, polished pop and yacht-rock electro" in favour of a more profound agenda: "being what we are".

It's thus telling that the record that Curve Of The Earth most resembles is their debut, 2006's Making Dens. It's an album of warm, expansive, mildly psychedelic guitar pop worthy of a band who have spent a lengthy career honing their musical chops yet not losing their core drive and idealism.

It's quite an achievement. The choruses and melodies are rich, finely turned and immersive, the playing vivid but never showy. Bombay Blues could be the work of great, lost Beatles acolytes World Party, or James at their most humane. The gently trippy Bubblegum finds singer Blaine Harrison wondering whether a third party is communicating with him via globules of Wrigley's Spearmint strategically left on the street: "I swear somebody is leaving messages for me under my feet…"

A major breakthrough may yet be theirs

Midnight Mirrors opens with a clip of David Thewlis' cynical, bile-laden anti-hero in 1993 movie Naked, but Curve Of The Earth boasts few attention-grabbing gimmicks: it doesn't need them. The audacious, cosmic 1985 1644 could appeal to fans of prog rock goliaths like King Crimson or Genesis, yet is utterly free from bombast: it sounds organic, holistic.

The lean, propulsive Taken By The tide details long-time former bassist Kai Fish's departure halfway through a world tour and does so in gentle, forgiving style: "Brother, I thought that you would be there till the end." Then the closing The End Up is a gorgeous, ruminative six-minute-plus astral soundscape in which Harrison addresses friends who have settled down to begin families with simultaneous fear and envy.

It's their best to date. Curve Of The Earth is a smart, poignant, erudite album that shows Mystery Jets have done what so few bands do: they have kept going, kept their heads down, and kept getting better. A major breakthrough may yet be theirs.