We Were Promised Jetpacks


Written by: TL on 21/10/2014 17:58:51

In 2009 Scottish indie rockers We Were Promised Jetpacks emerged and turned heads immediately, not only via their quirky name but also via the bundle of great tunes that made up their first album "These Four Walls". Despite the success however, 2011 follow-up "In The Pit Of The Stomach" marked an immediate change, diverging from the to-the-point tempos and energy escalations of the debut to explore gloomier, noisier and more contemplative territory, the result being an album that was a lot less gratifying on the first many listens, yet provided the band with material that made for an awesome contrast in their live shows.

It's been anyone's guess then, what the quintet from Edinburgh would come up with here on third album "Unravelling", and the striking cover-art only extends the puzzling feeling of "what's up with these guys?" Despite starting out with a reasonably swift tempo in "Safety In Numbers" though, the course seems to stay similar to the one designated on "Pit Of The Stomach", and those familiar with fellow Scottish groups The Twiligth Sad and Frightened Rabbit will feel at home with both the strong accent on the vocals and the layered, effect-ladden guitar-plateaus. It's still a striking change from the debut album though, and you wonder if the sudden doze of success impacted the seemingly shy group strongly, for while "These Four Walls" felt like an album recorded in a small room, which buzzed with immediacy and an urge to communicate its stories directly to the listener, these latest two WWPJ albums feel more like the band has watched the world unfold from the corner of the room and then gone to their own secluded cave to ponder on their own.

The result is a meditative, patiently progressive indie-rock, where the guitar noise grows in steady, gradual increments, not unlike how post-rock bands patiently work their ways toward stormy crescendos. Strangely though, the dynamic never gets to feeling explosive or immersive the way you would guess it's intended, which is a problem because the concerted approach comes at the price of having little in terms of distinct individual riffs or melodies. The verse vocals of "Night Terror" are sort of welcoming, and "Disconnecting" has a spooky guitar signature towards the end that will haunt your mind any time you re-hear the song. Sitting in the middle of the record along with "Bright Minds", these form the most arousing listens of the album, yet the latter is symptomatic of the feeling you have overall, as it seems to be poised to break into a gallop in a few key places, yet is reigned in at every turn.

Outside of the middle triplet, it can frankly be hard to keep attention fixed on "Unravelling", and even upon trying stubbornly to do so, the impression is that these songs are composed in a way that can envelop the listener completely in a live setting, yet this effect is translated to the record with about as much success as the sensation of swimming in the ocean translates to doing the same thing with a character in a video game. You recognise that's what's being conveyed but it's just not the same thing. It makes you think that it's a fine enough ambition to forego simple hook writing and the easy, foot-stomping beats of the band's debut album, but that the group's efforts towards realising this grander ambition fail to assemble spectacularly enough to really pay off for the listener. Or in plain terms, it feels like the band's effort to do something more artistic has resulted in music that one dares say is regretably also more boring. Either that or perhaps it needs to be witnessed live to fully come across? Even so, that's not quite the success you'd hope for.


Download: Disconnecting, Night Terror, Bright Minds
For The Fans Of: The Twiligt Sad, Frightened Rabbit, The Joy Formidable
Listen: facebook.com/wewerepromisedjetpacks

Release date 06.10.2014

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