Mystery Jets review – Transgressive celebrates 10 years

Barbican, London
The London record label presents the more refined end of its artist roster in a joyful showcase

It’s probably been some time since an act yelled the words “Barbican! Put your hands in the air!”, as Mystery Jets’ Blaine Harrison does , at a crowd thronging the aisles. But then it’s not every day an indie label celebrates its 10th birthday in such hallowed halls. The norm is to stick two crates of Tennent’s behind the bar at the Old Blue Last, but then London’s Transgressive Records has always maintained a classier air than most. Having championed the likes of Foals, the Shins and Regina Spektor, tonight’s anniversary event showcases the more refined end of their label and publishing arms.

Glamorously morose, Marika Hackman is a hypnotic addition to the ranks of glowering female singer-songwriters, constructing sparse mood pieces of diamond-cut melody and medieval battle drum that seem designed to summon armies of crows. Dry the River fare worse: hippy-haired singer Peter Liddle, barefoot in a crisp white suit, appears to have jumped straight out of Supertramp circa 1977, and his band veer frustratingly between Band of Horses and Keane. A great idea … in 2006.

The first London show in two years from arch indie masters Mystery Jets is the night’s big draw and they do well to steer clear of the 80s cheese of their 2008 hit Two Doors Down. Instead, with Harrison channelling the oddball charisma of Julian Cope, they unravel the urgent drama of Someone Purer and recruit Laura Marling to add bittersweet coos to Young Love, a song about falling in love with a one-night stand. Their two unnamed new tracks are intriguing evolutions, too – the first a Madchester power shuffle and the second a virtual retrospective of Pink Floyd’s post-Syd career, from Echoes verse to Comfortably Numb crescendo.

Johnny Flynn & the Sussex Wit provide a rousing finale, bringing import and animation to global folk styles from gothic country to sultry mariachi, and inspiring another rarely seen Barbican phenomenon. As homelessness lament The Box becomes a spiritual jig, a couple hoedown through the aisles. Like the past 10 years, it’s a joyful transgression.


Mark Beaumont

The GuardianTramp

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