Revitalising and reimagining some of history’s greatest protest songs for the blighted contemporary age, Mystery Jets’ Home Protests is a gallant feat. In a year toiled by pandemics and protests, a vibrant take on Willy Mason’s Oxygen sitting alongside an indie-man’s Big Yellow Taxi feels delightfully poignant, and made for a fascinating dissection by Izzy Felton.
Since the release of their sixth LP Curve of The Earth in 2016, the Mystery Jets have been pretty quiet. But 2020 was a fresh new year, and with came an assortment of new projects from the band, including a podcast and not one, but two new records. The latter of the pair, Home Protests, saw the light of day in December and is certainly different to anything the band have released before. A compilation of various musical covers, it includes the band’s take on Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi and Randy Newman’s Americana-inspired Short People, amongst other songs with poignant political messages. Gone are the days of juvenescent love and lust seen in their earlier discography, Home Protests is a welcomed continuation of the Mystery Jets new political approach to music, and a band eager to discuss the world’s disorder within their records.
April’s A Billion Heartbeats was the troupe’s first foray into the political realm and they have been busy pushing their new anti-establishment notion since. Perhaps the change has been inspired by our whirlwind of a past year, or maybe it’s something that’s stemmed from the band’s growing maturity. Whatever it was, it has certainly worked for them so far. In a thoughtful press release for the album, the band explained that the covers on Home Protests, “songs about mental health, the environment, consumerism or racial issues,” were chosen because they “feel as real now as they did when they were written.”
‘Whilst it isn’t the bands best work musically, Mystery Jets’ allegiance to a new-found political edge is thoroughly admirable.’
The record is fittingly unrefined, as like with many cover albums, the songs are just one recording. It’s evident that it was not meant to be taken too seriously as the album had no promotion before its release. The brutalist cover really symbolises the rawness of both the record’s sound and subject, and this gritty, rough-around-the-edges sound is perhaps a product of its making during a global pandemic. What hasn’t changed about the Mystery Jets is, however, their quintessential indie sound. Like A Billion Heartbeats, the record is still perforated by that recognisable optimistic Mystery Jets sound, with the vibrant, guitar-driven cover of Randy Newman’s Short People being a particular highlight.
The Age of Self, a gutsy take on Robert Wyatt’s 1982 mining cry, is another record pinnacle that feels like a real indicator of the new thematic path that the Mystery Jets seem keen to follow with their music. A year of crippling pandemics, protests against racism, debates on children going hungry, and an evident increase in poor mental health has not been ignored by musicians, and 2020 has seen a significant rise in political themes in music. Home Protests is no different. Whilst it isn’t the bands best work musically, what is admirable about the record is Mystery Jets allegiance to a new-found political edge. It will be interesting to see where the band takes this next.
Written by: Izzy Felton
Edited by: Olivia Stock