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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
THE MYSTERY JETS, The Mean Fiddler, London, March 9th 2006
I sometimes wonder about people in marketing, I really do. I mean, I thought their job was to find the right people for their product, and then persuade them to buy it. Isn’t that right Serge? Well in the case of the Mystery Jets, whose first album Making Dens was released last Monday, I can’t help thinking that the marketing department at 679 Recordings (an ‘indie’ offshoot of Warner Music) were having a ‘Friday afternoon’, as they used to say at Ford Motors in Dagenham.
The insight that they seem to be working on is that music lovers like eccentrics and misfits (and God knows Serge, that’s certainly true of us isn’t it?). So what do they do? Well they seem to spend all their time telling us, the press, anyone who will listen, that that’s what the Mystery Jets are. Big mistake guys!
We don’t want to be told that in advertising, and we might even get a bit fed up reading it in interviews or reviews. What we really want to do is find out for ourselves – or at least get told by our best mates. If I didn’t know better I’d look at the adverts and make a positive decision not to buy – but then I guess I’m not a ‘target consumer’ as they say. I can also tell that from the beautifully produced CD sleeve (the design and packaging work associated with this band is fantastic – marketers reprieved!), which nicely, instead of having lyrics, has a carefully crafted picture to represent each song. But try and read the typeface with my tired middle aged eyes – wrong font, wrong colour background. That’s it – moan over.
It’s the Mean Fiddler, and I’m only here in the middle of a domestic crisis involving a 14 year old boy, football and fractured elbows (ouch!) because it’s a big night for the Jets, and quite a big one for my daughter who’s professionally involved with the band (but not, as you might guess from the above, on the marketing side – phew!). So yes Serge, I declare ‘an interest’ here, as our Members of Parliament only occasionally like to say. But let’s be clear, in keeping with Whiskyfun principles I bought my own ticket (yes, this is reviewing without the bungs and freebies that occur in much music journalism – and other categories I could think of too) and I even declined a pass for the after show party. Where was I?
Yes – it’s a big night because the album is just released – something of a rite of passage as singer Blaine Harrison picturesquely explained to us, and they’re here celebrating with longstanding fans, friends, mums and dads. And blimey, one of the dads is even on stage – guitarist, keyboard player and stylophone meister, Henry Harrison. Who from what I can gather was in the band when it started when the rest of the boys were about nine. So it’s taken some years of careful nurturing in their wonderful London hideaway on Eel Pie Island (whose association with the birth of rhythm and blues in the UK is knowingly acknowledged on the CD cover) to get them to this stage. And if only people can see beyond the unhelpful ‘eccentric’, ‘quirky’, ‘bonkers’ stereotyping I suspect they have a long way to go yet, and probably very quickly.





Left, Blaine Harrison - right, Kai Fish and William Rees

The gig is fantastic. The opener is Zoo Time. Play the ‘who do they remind me of’ game and you’ll quickly on one song get through Franz Ferdinand, Pink Floyd, Barclay James Harvest, Moody Blues, Teardrop Explodes and more. In fact in the end you have to give up and simply agree that they sound like the Mystery Jets. Full stop. In the engine room are drummer Kapil Trivedi and the often Bruce Foxtonesque bass-player Kai Fish – and combined with the nicely fractured guitar playing of William Rees they provide a formidable rock and roll outfit, supported by Harrison (Henry, senior) and Harrison (Blaine, junior), who (seated as a result of a longstanding illness) sings, plays occasional guitar, and plays as second drummer, famously bashing away at all sorts of pots and pans (this, apparently, is one of the things that makes them ‘eccentric’ – hmmmm). I should add that Blaine Harrison has a great English rock and roll voice, and also that I get a weird sense of déjà vu every time I hear him sing.
In the course of a pretty high energy hour or so they work through the entire album and give us ‘Lizzie’s Lion’ as an encore. Highlights for me are,(in addition to the really powerful opener ‘Zoo time’), ‘The boy who ran away’, ‘Purple prose’ (nice guitar playing), ‘You can’t fool me Dennis’ (shades of the sadly departed Boo Radleys), ‘Horse drawn cart’, ‘Little bag of hair’, and ‘Making dens’ (which has a satisfyingly nice feel of what the Beachboys should have been about it). The songs are well crafted – and if you haven’t guessed it’s the sort of good old English stuff that your Whiskyfun reviewer adores - as the packaging emphasises it’s all cricket bats, boys' comics, red telephone boxes and model aeroplanes. Magic.
The whole evening is totally engaging, with these charming young men (well, except Harrison senior) sharing their obvious pleasure in the moment with their adoring fans – typical of the feel is when bassist Fish climbs on the speaker stack in the middle of a song to shake hands with friends and admirers in the balcony. I can’t see him being able to do that in twelve month’s time. In fact they look so happy you can only imagine that they must feel like they’ve got the best job in the world.    
Which reminds me of the only low point of the evening – the man with the worst job in the world, stuck in a corner of the squalid and stinking floor-flooded men’s urinals, trying to persuade his would-be clients to buy a soft towel or some aftershave. Two last things. I’m reliably informed that the band began life as ‘the misery jets’. I can only congratulate whoever it was that threw out the misery and put in the mystery – what a great name. And secondly, just to keep a few old Dads very happy, as Serge would say, “please go and buy their music”. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Nick's Nokia)

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