Many of our readers may already have purchased an import of Mystery Jets' fantastic album, Making Dens. Fortunately, the band has given fans on our shores a reason to purchase this new US-only record, ZooTime, which contains tracks from the import LP as well as new tunes that were produced by Erol Alkan. Yes, new tunes!
One thing that is immediately apparent in the opening seconds of ZooTime is that the mix of "Diamonds In The Dark" is slightly different. There are subtle nuances that were definitely not on the Dens version, but those little flourishes of guitar add an interesting bit of color to this already vibrant track. This leads us to the first new song on the record, "Inside Four Walls." One can definitely hear Alkan's influence in the song, giving their sound a slightly darker edge to it. The manic, driving beat, distorted percussion, chugging guitars and slight bits of synth add a bit of maturity to Mystery Jets, and it totally works.
Up next is another new one, "Scarecrows In The Rain." This song proves that even when working with somebody like Alkan, the band's eccentricity remains intact. Primarily pushed along by up-tempo acoustic guitars and a snare drum, the focus lies squarely on the fantastic voice of Blaine Harrison. What I like about his vocals on this one is that they get a bit scratchy and gruff towards the end as he repeats "what did I believe in, how did I behave?"
Towards the end of the album we find the final two new tracks, "Umbrella Head" and "Crosswords." The first comes across like a lost John Lennon track, with nothing more than a rattle-filled piano and echo-treated vocals. "Crosswords" lets Alkan stretch his indie-dance legs out quite a bit, adding in elements of remix production that are new to their sound. The wonderfully spastic percussion that is a staple of the band remains, but the core of the track is deeply rooted in a repetitive dance line, electro bleeps and blasts of crunchy guitar noise.
Taking songs from a debut album, mixing around the order, removing a few songs and adding in a handful of new ones is an interesting way to introduce a band to our shores, but fortunately for Mystery Jets, it works. Rather than coming across as a hodgepodge collection of tracks, the revamped debut LP, given the name ZooTime, feels like a cohesive work of pop greatness. Even after enjoying Making Dens for quite some time now, "You Can't Fool Me Dennis" is still one of the best damn pop tracks around. For the uninitiated, if you like XTC, Hot Hot Heat and Futureheads, you'll love this band.