Brit-poppers Mystery Jets relocated from London to Austin, TX prior to recording Radlands. It was a reinvention of sortsthe band set up a recording studio in a country house on the Colorado River and singer Blaine Harrison explored the Southwest to gain inspiration for new songs.
Its a somewhat contrived way to create an album, and I deduced that before listening to Radlands. Perhaps I shouldnt have. Its strange how circumstance affects ones perception, but Radlands feels like the same standard-fare pop Harrison has been peddling for years, only its been artificially inseminated with just enough twang to justify the outline of Texas on the cover. The Hale Bop sounds like Damon Albarn half-assing around with some country-rock session men; Lonestar and Lost in Austin are the kind of predictable folk ballads that a British chap writes when he relocates to Texas so he can gain inspiration for some folk ballads (and subsequently title them something like Lost in Austin). Predictable is the key word heretame arrangements, a faux-country vibe, and a lack of interesting hooks bury these songs and the majority of Radlands.
The one exception is opening track Greatest Hits, an ultra-catchy ode to splitting up a shared record collection after a failed relationship. And based on some of the albums name-checked here (The Lexicon of Love, Remain in Light, Village Green), this relationship was pretty incredible. These were our greatest hits/The best of me and you, Harrison sings in front of a chorus of sha-la-las. Greatest Hits is so good, it almost makes up for all the triteness of all the other tracks combined. It also has nothing to do with pseudo-Americana, being a British guy in Texas, etc.
Would I have judged Radlands differently if Id not known the backstory? Maybe. The whole relocating to Texas thing reeks of a band searching for a voice instead of using the one it already has. Radlands has a similar stench, though most of the album simply falls flat melodically, lyrically, or both.
Essential Track: Greatest Hits