Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2006: Number 13

Presumably this is what Definitely Maybe's cover would have looked like had Oasis listened to more Syd Barrett

First impressions can be misleading. Most people seem to have taken one look at the Mystery Jets' familial connections, off-GPS locale and flag planting outside of indie guitar norms and determined that this is the reflowering of proper prog rock. But hold hard, as for starters it's twelve tracks in 44 and a half minutes (by comparison, the never notably Yes-linked Guillemots album has the same number of tracks in twelve more minutes). So it's all in the pop framework, but where the tag has stuck from is the otherwise unclassifiable nature of the interplay and melodic shifts here, taking neigbourhood root in, say, Jethro Tull's social critique Thick As A Brick rather than the Wakeman On Ice selection so beloved of easy genre hoppers. Remain aware that the much more feted Krautrock is as much prog as anything, not that they're especially motorik but the way songs drive and warp in on themselves reflects something more than cod-classical suites of legend.

Not that we should be making excuses for this, or believing bitesize King Crimson is the be all and end all of Making Dens. Alas Agnes is furious skiffle-infused rattler on the everyday boy-meets-boy-as-girl/boy-becomes-girl/other boy-dumps-boy/girl topic, Zootime takes three quarters of its length to get to the vocal proper but takes an unmissable Neu! meets Astronomy Domine path there, Diamonds In The Dark regrets lost love in as optimistic a fashion as can be managed in the circumstances, The Boy Who Ran Away features a corker of a triple percussion solo amid stories, and actual stories at that, of not finding streets far away paved with gold, and while Purple Prose may waste no more than two lines before dropping in the refrain "across hither and dither, and hither and dither, and hither and dither" it also drips with wistful cheer, spiralling harmonies and subtly spikish guitars. They can drop the tempo when required to good effect too, as on the pastoral Soluble In Air and the slow burner about childhood reliance Little Bag Of Hair (autobiographically based on Blaine's own spina bifida treatment). Idiosyncratic and difficult to pin down at any one time, but it's the joy extracted from pain and hindsight that proves most infectious and ensures that, whatever lengths they're lining up for, it belies most of the tags meant for it.

LISTEN ON: Purple Prose
WATCH ON: Zoo Time at last year's Blissfields festival; You Can't Fool Me Dennis live in Southend
READ ON: La Blogotheque documents the familial relationship, the French connection and "the first meeting in heaven between Mozart and Bob Marley"

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