An album originally scheduled for last year, Mystery Jets’ ‘A Billion Heartbeats’ was delayed after singer Blaine Harrison was struck down with an infection. Adding to that was the double whammy of having founding member Will Rees quit the band since that postponement.
The band emerge defiant, though, and have made a record to try and tackle the current state of society. Opening track ‘Screwdriver’ sets the tone for the rest of the album. It references the rise of the far-right and the increased sense of division we have as a society at this moment of time. To combat this division Mystery Jets have a simple proposal reminiscent of the 1960s - fight hate with love.
There is a call for much needed empathy throughout this album, an important message and the one that resonates cohesively throughout. The band’s politics made clear early on, although increased thematic repetition means that it does become a bit predictable as the album progresses. Whilst there are big anthemic choruses in parts, there are only slight variations to the album’s sound; what it does best, however, is project a sense of devastation and regret such as on ‘Cenotaph’s opening melody.
‘Watching Yourself Slowly Disappear’ is a highlight, questioning what society proposes is a “real man” while acting as a tribute to the late Scott Hutchinson. It encourages open conversation about mental health, something we could all do with in present circumstances.
There is talk of resistance and protesting, fighting for the right to try and enact change. Mystery Jets’ message is effective, to a degree, a reminder that we should be more tolerant and empathetic, whilst praising our healthcare system.
'A Billion Heartbeats' perhaps lacks the cutting perspective or lyricism of classic protest records, while managing to present the revolutionary spirit of old in a modern context.
Words: Matthew Pywell
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