Mystery Jets | Mercury Lounge | 3.25.2006

Mysterjets_modernage
It’s bands like The Mystery Jets that make a music writer’s job easy. With all the kooky factoids associated with them, a person could almost write a whole review about them and not even get around to mentioning the music:

They live somewhere called Eel Pie Island! The singer’s dad is also in the band!

OK, so that’s just two things, but I’m sure someone like Rob Sheffield could stretch that out to 200 words. Luckily there’s lots more to write about in regards to their show at Mercury Lounge on Saturday (they also played Friday night). First, they had the most gear ever. Poor Kelley Stoltz and his band were forced to play on the right side of the stage (though it didn’t phase him, he was just great) thanks to all their guitars, keyboards, trash can lids, jingle bells, oompahdoozles and flazzerapans. It took them a while to set up all their junk — and I mean junk, their keyboards were held together with duct tape — but eventually they took the stage to a prerecorded chant of "Zoo time! Zoo time!"

The Mystery Jets are a nutty band. Wild-haired singer Blaine Harrison sat on a padded stool (more on this later), surrounded by said keyboards, trashcan lids and other bangable things. He also had a cowbell on a rope around his neck. Lead guitarist Will Rees was dressed like a cricketer. The bassist seemed to think he was in Franz Ferdinand, and tended to pose a lot. The drummer, apart from being smaller than any member of Battle, seemed fairly normal. Lastly, there was Blaine’s dad, Henry, in a sort of collarless pirate shirt.

The music is just as schizo. It’s proggy, poppy, retro, Kinksy… you know, whatever they feel like at the time. I like but don’t love their debut, Making Dens, but the band’s relatively short set kept to the best bits. I’ve read other reports saying they were just noise, but that’s not true. It may have been a little cacophonous at times, but there were pop songs, hooks, close harmonies and skilled playing underneath it all. I ended up watching Rees for most of the show, he’s a fascinating guitarist. He’s from the Jeff Beck "I don’t need a plectrum" school of playing. He wasn’t just finger-picking, but also strumming pretty hard. While I’m sure he plays a big part in the band, Henry seemed like a bit of an afterthought: pushed to the left of all his son’s equipment, away from the kids.

It was a good, spirited show. The crowd seemed genuinely into it, as did the band. "The Boy Who Ran Away" and "You Can’t Fool Me Dennis" ("This is a song about a man named Dennis" – Henry) were particularly good. There was so much going on, I never even thought to wonder why Blaine sat on a stool the whole time. Turns out — after a fair amount of web research — he suffered from spina bifida as a child and now needs some help walking, and must sit while playing. It didn’t hamper the band’s energy one bit. Of all the curious minutia associated with the band, I like that this particular bit has so far been the most trivial of all.

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Switching slots from the previous night, The Noisettes headlined on Saturday. Fronted by Shingai Shoniwa, who looked liked something out of 1983 — kinda like Grace Jones via the Belle Stars, lots of dayglo — the trio was certainly spunky but I grew tired of them after about three songs and went home.

Photo (actually from Friday’s show) swiped from The Modern Age.

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