Release Date: Oct 4, 2011
Record label: Fat Cat
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
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When these brooding Scottish rockers released their debut album in 2009, they were noted for aggressive guitars and high-powered drumming, which raced a mile a minute but also boasted an extremely melodic sensibility. But for all the talk of epic anthems, the album included plenty of musical contrast, with spare, intimate moments that put the focus on frontman Adam Thompson’s voice. It was beautifully bipolar, as if We Were Promised Jetpacks were trying to hold back the rushing waters of an emotional breakdown.
On In the Pit of the Stomach, We Were Promised Jetpacks deliver songs that feel like a wallop to the gut. Much harder-hitting than their debut, These Four Walls, this album harnesses the power the band displayed before into a wall of sound that’s as rousing as it is anguished, starting with “Circles and Squares” and only letting up for the occasional ballad. Their previous indie pop leanings are mostly gone, though “Medicine”’s driving post-post-punk has a tunefulness that makes it a standout.
Scotch rockers deliver again... From the vocal inflection to the soaring melody and angular hammering riffage, We Were Promised Jetpacks might have something in common with ‘Blackened Sky’-era Biffy Clyro. But, where Biffy were once obtuse, WWPJ are far more open and expansive. Harnessing the use of crescendos, the likes of ‘Circle And Squares’ and ‘Act On Impulse’ are built around repetitive passages that build to epic flourishes of energy and melody - it’s almost an indie-rock take on post-rock.
Two years ago, We Were Promised Jetpacks debuted with an insistence that repeatedly built to the epic. That album, These Four Walls, was a promising start, with its energy and pulse pushing the music into more successful art than its youthful approach to grandeur would have been expected to. The follow-up album In the Pit of the Stomach shows the band to be maturing without losing energy and developing their sound without overcomplicating it.
We Were Promised Jetpacks has the sort of name your meathead freshman-year roommate would suggest for a band: ambiguously ironic, nominally funny, appealing to a sort of lowest common-denominator pop-punk crowd. Actually, most of the Scottish acts with which the young group is affiliated have the types of names that make me embarrassed to mention them in discussion (Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad). But that’s on me – all three of these bands make vital, engaging rock music with hardly a hint of preadolescent twee to be found, no matter what their monikers might imply.
In The Pit Of The Stomach is a great advert for what can be created when a band get the right producer and sufficient preparation time, as opposed to prematurely shooting their load in fear of exceeding their expiry date. Unlike their primitive, and at times ropey, debut album, here We Were Promised Jetpacks have chosen to press the epic button. Not in a 'Let’s turn everything up to 11 so your ears bleed' epic way, nor the Arcade Fire approach that involves lobbing a kitchen sink filled with a 30-strong Hungarian choir at the mixing desk stylee.
While 2009’s debut ‘[b]These Four Walls[/b]’ was a brilliant attempt at thoughtful-yet-turbulent rock, it was too restrained for the tracks to be the fist-pumpers they could have been, probably a result of the Edinburgh group’s rushed recording process. This time around, however, they’ve paced themselves and delivered an album packed with punchy, literate guitar music. Most surprising of all is the gargantuan ‘[b]Hard To Remember[/b]’, which ups the noise to [a]Mogwai[/a] levels (ie very fucking loud).
Preconceptions are usually kind of a bitch, but they've mostly worked in this Scottish band's favor. Knowing that they were championed by Frightened Rabbit on MySpace and then signed to FatCat would have you believe that they're similarly aligned as scrappy, heart-on-sleeve romantics. And yes, their 2009 debut, These Four Walls, delivered on that notion, however intermittently.
Why is it that bands from overseas are always so much cooler than bands here in the States? Is it the water? Air? Attitude? Whatever the reason, the only things that truly matter are the body of work and the music. In the Pit of the Stomach, the latest entry from Scottish band We Were Promised Jetpacks, is no different. This album is another stake in the heart of an industry where it’s easier to be heard and harder to get noticed, but right now this band is doing both.
A great second album powered by an edgy, nervous hunger. Mischa Pearlman 2011 Alongside Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad, We Were Promised Jetpacks are part of the powerful Scottish indie triumvirate that – until the Rabbits recently moved to Atlantic Records – were all signed to FatCat Records. Jetpacks, however, were (and still are) the babies of the bunch, with just one album to their name and – with them barely out of their teens – a significantly lower average age.
Catharsis: It’s the release of pent-up tension, that blissful movement when, after much teeth gritting and fist clenching, everything explodes in a surge of emotion. It’s also one of the most powerful tools in any respectable band’s arsenal (there’s a reason why “All My Friends” was so damn popular). The Scottish post-rockers of We Were Promised Jetpacks reach for an album full of those moments of lightning-in-a-bottle urgency with their sophomore LP, In The Pit Of The Stomach.