Curve of the Earth is the fifth record from Mystery Jets, and their first in three years. Self-produced in a disused button factory in East London, this is a record for which we are told chief songwriter Blaine Harrison undertook isolated sessions in a cabin on the Thames Estuary. It seems that the group (now featuring bassist Jack Flanagan, replacing long-time member Kai Fish) have rediscovered the gang mentality that drove them from their earliest days, going back to their delightful debut LP Making Dens (2006).
What’s left is an LP that sounds buffed and polished to within an inch of its life. Where past records from Mystery Jets were noteworthy for their wealth of ideas, this collection of songs largely hammers home a single idea, and does so in a bombastic and hollow feeling fashion. The tone is set with opening single ‘Telomere’, and it’s relentlessly vague, mundane and unrewarding from there. Each vocal is delivered with a great deal of gravity and emotion, but it is not clear what this pertains to. One pleasant variation on a theme comes with ‘Midnight’s Mirror’, featuring vocals from guitar player Will Rees, indicating that a modicum of the old variety and diversity remains.
It is a sorry indictment that a nine track album comes to feel like something of a slog. Just one track clocks in at less than four minutes in duration. At times calling to mind mid ’00s bores, The Feeling, it’s as smooth and slick as you’ll get, but most of all it is a wearying exercise in monotony. Apparently fixated on arenas and often drifting into overblown territory – with Curve of the Earth, one gets the sense that this record is one Mystery Jets feel they should be making at this juncture. Where once they stood out from the crowd, idiosyncratic both in terms of music and image, now there are clichés everywhere one looks. There are hands to be let go of, pasts to be left behind and more. Disappointingly, this is a band that appears to be making a great deal of effort to fit in.