Release Date: Oct 14, 2014
Record label: Fat Cat
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock
I have to admit to not having kept up with the progress of We Were Promised Jetpacks over the last few years. I was a big fan of their debut album These Four Walls, which seemed to have the balance just right between the angst of the confessional singer-songwriter and the uncontrolled cacophony of the best post-rock of the day. It was the kind of album I wished that some of the safer members of the contemporary (of the time) rock fraternity would make.
We Were Promised Jetpacks learned not to pull their punches on In the Pit of the Stomach, and on Unravelling, they find more sophisticated ways to harness that unleashed energy. The band enlisted producer Paul Savage for this album, and working at Glasgow's Chem19 Studios, he delivers a punchy, roomy sound that allows their extremes -- blasting drums and guitars and delicate keyboards -- to come through clearly. Unravelling also reflects Jetpacks' prowess as a live act -- something that E Rey: Live in Philadelphia also documented -- on songs like the lumbering "I Keep It Composed," which pummels with a heavy, looping riff and powerful drums, which are as much of linchpin as they were on In the Pit of the Stomach.
Unraveling is like a well-written thriller, constantly building up and defusing while maintaining a constant tension. We Were Promised Jetpacks are exploring new territory, and though at first glance it doesn't seem to play to the band's post-punk, indie rock strengths, there is a diverse album, all tightly held together by a theme of unwavering, ominous uncertainty, waiting for those willing to put it through a couple of listens. "Peaks and Troughs" sporadically jumps between mellow palm-mutes, devastating distortion and cymbal crashes, while "Night Terror" builds up to a mid-tempo drum and bass march as guitars add their furious tremolo flair, only to morph into the reverb-rich piano and guitar creep of "Disconnecting.
Recorded in their native Scotland and produced by Paul Savage (Teenage Fanclub, Mogwai), Unravelling becomes the ‘randomly named after picking possibilities out of a hat’ We Were Promised Jetpacks’ third studio album and fourth in all following the release of a live effort recorded in Philadelphia. So why are they still relatively unknown a decade after their formation despite high praise from large institutions? Well, they don’t ooze cool for one. There’s no real identity on show, an identity that can often give bands a huge shove on the road to fame – like The Horrors, for instance.
Since they put out their last record, 2011’s In the Pit of the Stomach, We Were Promised Jetpacks have added a new member: Stuart McGachan on guitars, keys, and backup vocals. As far back as the Scottish rockers’ stop at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall last March, McGachan had already joined the band and added an animalistic urgency to their high-intensity material. While they previewed six new songs from what was then an untitled new LP, it remained to be seen how McGachan would affect their creative output over the course of a whole record.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. I'd hate to be a musician at the end of the recording process, trying to work out which songs should be placed where and more importantly, if they haven't already done so, decide what opens the album. That album opener can be one of the most important songs on the album, inviting a listener in and exciting them.
We Were Promised Jetpacks have always been hard hitters. They've always found a way to be unique and it's not only in their sound, but it's how they go about doing their own thing that makes them so easy to gravitate to. They're humble, simple guys that love driving home their jams. There's a lot of energy in the Scottish-indie sound they've harnessed which has no doubt grown leaps and bounds since I first caught wind of them.
Scotland’s We Were Promised Jetpacks never shied from making big room music. Getting their start opening for countrymen Frightened Rabbit, the band reared itself on the grey capitulations and resolutions that lay strewn across landscapes of the heart. Unlike their colleagues in Frightened Rabbit, We Were Promised Jetpacks sought not the most crushing turn of phrase with which to stab their listener’s innards but obliterating arrangement and dynamic shifts.