Four-piece London band, the Mystery Jets have been absent from the music radar for the past few years, and after the January release of their latest studio album Curve of the Earth it’s easy to see why; laced with bittersweet lyrics, space-age imagery and sumptuously catchy pop riffs, the Mystery Jets have lifted-off with possibly their most mature, melancholic and inventive studio album yet. Judging by the sweaty packed out capacity in Gorilla on Friday night—where the band played their new songs for the first time in Manchester—it is clear to see that the album has earned deep respect from fans both new and old.
Usually when bands play new songs for their audiences for the first time, they’re met with utterances and sighs from the audience—irritated with the idea of having to listen to a song they are not yet familiar with. With the Mystery Jets, this is not the case; the night begins with the first new single ‘Telomere’, and there is a real palpable sense of anticipation from the audience, as they watch engrossed, swaying hands in the air, softly repeating ‘Oh telomere’ back to the band. As they launch into melancholic anthem ‘Taken by the Tide’ the crowd come alive, jostling and wavering, crying “taken by the tiiiiide” in time to the chorus. It is great to be at a gig where the audience are so receptive and excited about the new tunes; to the point where they know every word to sing. The band pleased with old tunes too; ‘Young Love’ and an encore for ‘Two Doors Down’ were met with frantic crowd-surfing and singing. However, it is not only the new album that’s been baptised in approval. “Mr Jack Flanagan, ladies and gentlemen” Blaine Harrison announces during the gig, as the bands new bassist is met with a friendly cheer by the crowd.
Backstage, The Mancunion spoke to the band before the show, are enjoying gin cocktails in Gorilla’s kitchen before the set. “Did we order these? Who ordered these?” They joke as they pick at a bowl of spicy fries that arrived at the table. They discuss the making of the new album, a personal and nostalgic journey for the band. “It’s our most personal record, and it’s based very much on the experiences that we’ve all had as a band over the last 10 years, so it’s kind of like a study of the band’s history really” says guitarist Will Rees. “A lot of the record kind of sounds like memories to me it’s got this kind of filter, like an Instagram filter!” “X Pro 1” adds Jack.
Despite the songs having this nostalgic “filter”, the dark elements of the past for the band have not been overlooked. “It’s definitely not sugar-coated, some of it—if anything has got chilli oil dribbled all over it,” explains Rees. “I think we were trying to be as honest about it as possible. If it’s too sugar-coated it’s too sweet. But the past is quite a magical place, really. That’s worth making the most of, you know, music’s gotta be magic otherwise it’s boring.”
Visually, the show was magic to watch. One searing pink line breaking through dark navy illuminated the band in pinks, purples and blues—all resembling the album artwork for Curve of the Earth. Space and earth have contributed much of the inspiration behind the record, as the band cite the Whole Earth Catalog (WEC) from the 1960s and ’70s as a “springboard” for some of the images within the album: “[WEC] was pretty much like a yellow pages for the 1970s counter-culture like, hippies, and in the Whole Earth Catalog, you could kind of learn how best to cultivate your own marijuana or where to meet like the like-minded people,” Jack explains, “once Steve Jobs in a speech described it as like the analogue internet, and when the book came out, he went round to university campuses and handed out these badges saying ‘why has nobody ever seen any pictures of the whole earth?’ And there’s just this real kind of innocence and naivety to it that’s part of it I think.”
I think these catalogues sort of reflect a yearning to like, bring people together and connect people.” Rees adds. Perhaps this is the intention of Curve of the Earth, to bring their audience together—much like they have at their Gorilla gig—and unite the past of the band with the future.