Is it just us or are we hearing the word “rad” being thrown out more often in casual conversation? And since when do a couple of boys from Eel Pie Island in West London get off by entitling their fourth LP, Radlands, with the West Coast youth’s most venerated word? (Or maybe they’re just sticking it to the Boss on this one.) Regardless, Radlands stacks a whole lot upon Mystery Jet’s signature blissful jangle-pop heard on the group’s initial works, Making Dens and Twenty One.
Since then, Mystery Jets has made some solid efforts to further obscure their sound from the barrier of clanging Fender guitars. 2010’s Serotonin transduced the group into a soft synth-rock aesthetic. This time around, the lads uprooted themselves from London to the Lone Star State–a move that has resulted in a surprising amount of fuzzy Southern campfire ballads. (Hello, Kings of Leon!)
The “British Americana” shtick is charming, but it gets old quickly–“I’ve heard there’s a place where we go to die/ it’s a terribly overrated horseshit-shaped hole in the sky” (“Radlands”). “You Had Me At Hello” fares better, blending gut-wrenching sadness with poetic ease. “Someone Purer” is a rambunctious-rock gem with an echoing “woah-oah-ah-oah” chorus. Infectiously hook-driven, it’s about the only glimpse we get of the same band that wrote “Two Doors Down.”
The Jets sound even less pliable on the cool-hearted “Greatest Hits,” a break-up tune which finds Harrison bantering, “No way you’re having This Nation’s Saving Grace/ You only listen to it when you’re pissed, when you sober up it’s always ‘why the fuck are you still listening to Mark E Smith’. ” “The Hale Bop” dips into the Jets’ back-catalog for five seconds, flirting with disco for a few fleeting moments. Suggestive acoustic album closer “Luminescence” brings Radlands full circle; glossing over the British irony and balladry that characterizes the bulk of the record.
Great as the closer is, “Luminescence” is the light at the end of a very dark tunnel–Radlands is the least cohesive effort the Jets have put out in a very reputable career. Mystery Jets have always delivered when it came to making instantly catchy and likeable pop songs. It’s a shame just how much a geographic relocation can smother a band with plenty of potential. “It’s a new era, it’s a new band. That’s what is had to be,” says Harrison. One thing’s for certain; it’ll definitely have to be somewhere other than Texas.
Mystery Jets – Radlands tracklist:
- “You Had Me At Hello”
- “Someone Purer”
- “The Ballad of Emmerson Lonestar”
- “Greatest Hits”
- “The Hale Bop”
- “The Nothing”
- “Take Me Where the Roses Grow”
- “Sister Everett”
- “Lost In Austin”