Mystery Jets: Zootime

The U.S. finally sees a release from one of 2006's buzzed British bands.

Mystery Jets


Label: Dim Mak
US Release Date: 2007-05-08
UK Release Date: Available as import

After spending a few weeks with Zootime, Mystery Jets' U.S. debut, I'm still not quite sure what to make of it. I suspect it's because the band, even a year on, don't quite know what they want to be when they grow up. The British band received a fair amount of buzz for its UK debut, Making Dens, last year, and though the album was set to jump the pond, it never quite made it. Never fear, though, because Hollywood label Dim Mak has stepped up to the plate -- hence Zootime, the somewhat repackaged version for American consumers. There are four new tracks (though one of these popped up on the U.S. single for "Diamonds in the Dark"), but the meat of the album's the same... only now it feels somehow less carefree, more calculated.

Technology's against overseas bands in this situation. Having piqued the interest of a number of blogs and websites last year, there's little by way of "story" that's completely new, or that could propel a groundswell of support here. Alright, the band is unconventional -- the dad's in the band, yes, and they live on that quaint little island on the Thames -- but that's all irrelevant to the experience of listening to Mystery Jets. And over that same period, as new wave refuses to die one British band at a time, the only real anticipation looking that way across the Atlantic is for two albums entirely different -- LP7 and Kala.

But I think for those Americans who discovered the band last year as one in a line, one they could perhaps lump in with Futureheads and Maximo Park, the relationship could benefit from a fresh introduction. Mystery Jets are no Maccabees, no matter how superlative their NME epithets. And if we originally judged them more mainstream than their musicianship suggested, it's not necessarily a weakness. Yes, Zootime does sound remarkably polished, the arrangements pulled tight, but that's the band, then. And when vocalist Blaine Harrison sings "Let's all play nurses and doctors until real nurses and doctors catch us" on "Little Bag of Hair", the eerie emotion is genuine.

That song's one of the highlights of the album, a weightless meditation on illness whose swirling groove builds to a monumental finale -- yes, there are elements of prog rock, but the whole thing's so disembodied that the emotion is revealed, rather than obscured, by the music. There are a number of other good songs on Zootime (I've written about a couple here). In general, the newer cuts show a band increasingly sophisticated at using the instruments and studio tricks at their disposal. "Scarecrows in the Rain", for example, is entirely successful -- a demented folk stomp driven by aggressively strummed acoustics and slowly-chanted, multi-tracked vocals. The proggy guitar bends are still there in the second verse, but they're in the background, colouring the composition.

Mystery Jets have to do a few things, still, to ensure they're not dismissed as another one-off British buzz export. They have to settle on their own style (hopefully it's not the straight dance-rock stuff, but more of the emotive chant-based inventiveness). You can see part of this evolution on Zootime itself -- "You Can't Fool Me Dennis" was originally released as a single in September 2005, whereas "Diamonds in the Dark" dates to almost exactly a year later. Their newer material is definitely a step up, though, even if it's a step into a more mainstream sound. And that's enough to keep hoping for something great from Mystery Jets, sometime down the road.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.