Engineers and The ResearchEdit this event
It’s a dubious one at the joiners tonight - three touring bands who are currently riding on varying levels of hype. Although minimal in comparison, the positive words about The Research at least come from all the right mouths and they’re being hotly tipped as ones to keep an eye on.
The actuality? A scruffy, slightly insane looking indie kid rocking out (and I mean ROCKING out) with a 16-key Casio keyboard and two pretty ladies doing the bass and drums. It sounds like all your favourite twee indie-pop moments lumped together; Ooberman, In Flames!, Bearsuit – whichever, The Research play catchy, fun and intelligent bursts of loveliness. By the end of their set, you're hard pressed to find a glum face in the house.
Next up, the Mystery Jets. So you’ve heard the blurb. The hype about pots and pans and old guitarists, blah blah. Sure, it’s interesting, it’s intriguing, maybe to a certain extent even alluring – fact is, to them it’s completely inconsequential. And to those who’ve shut up about the obvious and given the music a chance, it’s even more so.
10pm and the taunt of ‘Zoo Time’ repeated over and over blasts at the audience. The atmosphere stiffens somewhat as those who haven’t experienced the Mystery Jets before wonder what the hell’s going on. Then they appear one by one: an insaniac professor behind a drum kit of scrap metal; a leather clad rock star posing and twisting; the boy next door, grinning excitedly; a greying guitarist, glazed and distant and a questionably normal looking one tucked behind a sparse drum layout.
A friend nearby taps me on the shoulder and questions, "What sort of band are they?". For once I don’t know. There isn’t a label with which to pigeon-hole the Mystery Jets. Experimental? Pop? Indie? Whichever I choose, I’m wrong. My reply is simply, "it doesn’t matter".
The next 40 minutes are a chaos of mixed and matched influences, from ska guitars to Caribbean oil drumming and everything in-between. Epileptic drum beats, sudden juxtapositions and shambolic harmonies – everything about the Mystery Jets is a contradiction in terms. They sound messy and anarchic whilst being mesmerisingly tight. The songs are difficult and intelligent at the same time as being accessible and poppy. The performance is light-hearted yet head-swimmingly intense. Even their stage personas, despite pulling in completely different directions, all show a yearning and respect for the same unconventionalism.
Every corner of every song is stuffed with something exciting and refreshing. This is everyday enchantment, a sort of Layman’s alchemy or magic out of mediocrity. The Mystery Jets live show is not something to forget, but something to remember. It’s the transformation of basic matter into something inspiring. They take something boring and stale, then twist it, fuck it up, do what’s not supposed to happen. If you thought having the singers father in the band was the height of eccentricity, you’d better think again.
For Engineers, playing last on this bill must have felt like suicide. To follow something as opinion-splitting and fascinating as the Mystery Jets, you’d have to be pretty damn interesting. And the Engineers, quite frankly, aren’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love my sound-scapes just as much as the rest. But the things so captivating about wide expanses of ocean, vast deserts, star-scattered midnight skies is the space and enormity that makes everything else seem so insignificant. That is what this band fails to capture.
Like Sigur Ros without the beauty or Oceansize without the intelligence – it just becomes bland. There’s a gaping hole in the Engineers sound where all that passion should be.
What could have been a dramatic end to an extraordinary gig fell short and became somewhat of an anti-climax to two other very exciting new bands.
Mystery Jet photo by Sonia Melot
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