For ages, all I knew of the Mystery Jets was “You Can't Fool Me, Dennis”; and that one of the band members was one of the other ones's dad. But Young Love, their new single (even though I usually steer clear of recommending those), is the epitome of English pop.
The bassline it kicks off with is simple, but with a definite twang to it. From here, the song launches straight into a chorus, through which weaves a guitar line that complements the wry vocals, seemingly skipping along beside them.
The verses are underpinned instrumentally by strong, marching drums; and a bassline that rises and falls, dancing around the vocals. Shimmering guitar crescendos also make an appearance every so often. Half-way through, some backing vocals chip in, contributing staccato, fey “aah”s on the offbeats; they become legato (but remain fey) in the second chorus and start alternating between “ooh” and “ahh”.
At this point, the song's punctuated by a bridge: off-kilter clangs herald successive choruses of “woawoawoaw, woawoawoa-ooo!” and crescendos of those marching drumbeats; until the verse re-emerges—and brings current indie-folk up-and-comer Laura Marling with it.
Laura Marling's voice is the poshest this side of Sophie Ellis-Bextor. It's ably escorted by the rising-and-falling, dancing guitar line; marching drums; and finger-clicks, provided in the video by the disembodied hands of three off-screen Mystery Jets.
After a final chorus featuring Laura singing an alto counter-melody, the song arrives at another bridge, and this is where it concludes—no chorus repeat (aptly enough, I feel like I'm repeating myself here) and no fade-out: an extended bridge and then stop. This is the mark of a durable pop song: it leaves you only 90% satisfied rather than outstaying its welcome. Moreover, the guest vocalist actually feels like a guest for a change, instead of an ill-advised attempt at a full duet.
The song's lyrics comprise rhyming couplets that, with plenty of hyperbole, depict their protagonist hopelessly in love with a fleeting acquaintance. Despite being pretty straightforward in structure, they simultaneously manage to be poetically vivid and immensely catchy: “Is that you on the bus? is that you on the train? / You wrote your number on my hand and it came off in the rain” is definitely couplet of the week.
But it never seems twee, like a lot of Scando-Scottish indie-popsters (seriously, who can tell Camera Obscura and the Concretes apart?)—the rattling drums and precise guitars prevent the sound from becoming syrupy. Earnest and foppish, yes: but not twee.
So it is quintessentially English pop music—not only due to Laura Marling's accent, but because of the attitude it exhibits: a combination of resigned exasperation but recklessly unremitting determination nonetheless. You'd not hear that from Belle & Seb.
It's the sort of song Hugh Grant would sing if only he wasn't so frightfully shy. If you download one song this week, make it Young Love.
(How do you follow that? The “aah”s echo the Rakes' “We Danced Together” (an English band); the guitar and overall rhythm, (English) Field Music's “A House Is Not A Home”; and the bridge—annoyingly—“This Fffire”, by Scandinavian-produced Scots Franz Ferdinand.)