Album Review: We Were Promised Jetpacks – Unravelling

imageWe Were Promised Jetpacks are one of those truly treasurable Scottish bands in that, unlike seemingly every other alternative rock band hailing from thereabouts nowadays, they boldly dare to NOT emulate Biffy Clyro. Of course, I’m hyperboling, but only because I care. With their first two albums, catchy debut ‘These Four Walls’ and its much darker follow-up ‘In The Pit Of The Stomach’, the foursome proved themselves adept at grandiose crescendos, built on the growling depth of their basslines and linear song structures made to unfold like a stream of chaotic instrumental intensity and rousing, emotional, vocals. ‘These Four Walls’ had the band diligently following the blueprint for almost every track, resulting in a formulaic but nevertheless ruthlessly effective indie-rock mood piece. Their sophomore kept much of their debut’s textures and tone, but there were obvious, and healthy, signs of their decreasing reliance on the successful recipe. If perhaps not as immediately satisfying, ‘Unraveling’ is yet another step away from predictability and towards musical maturation.

What pleases this writer the most is that WWPJ appear to be taking more and more leaves out of Mogwai’s book, in the sense that they’ve retained traditional song structure and their emotional hooks, but have laid them upon a thick layer of rich instrumentals that, were the songs to be stripped of vocals, might feel right at home on a post-rock album. The tracks have lost some pace somewhat, but only to adhere to something of a pulsating rhythm, one that allows them to delve into much darker, moodier territory. The results include the brooding back and forth of half-grooves on ’Night Terror’, the “marauder in a manor house” of ’Disconnecting’, the effervescent background hyperactivity of the joyous, yet off kilter, ’A Part Of It’. There is little doubt in this writer’s mind that the healthy versatility they display is in no small part due to a greater attention to the detail of sound.

That little post-rock “je-ne-sais-quoi”, always bubbling under the surface elsewhere on the album, finally manifests itself in full-blown instrumental track ’Peace of Mind’. Passing, for some, as little more than an adventurous interlude, it actually possesses all the qualities of a bona-fide post-rock classic. Expansive, emotional, twinkly, but also powerful and epic in all the right places, it begs the question: “why don’t they do more of this?” (as well as: “why did they not think to close the album with it?”). The answer is that they do, in small measures at the heart of every track. The band used to be about the emotional momentum of the vocals, and the way it sucked everything else into its stride. The former seems almost secondary here, an accessible top layer atop a vibrant layering of thoughtful and, in truth, entirely self-sufficient instrumentals.

We Were Promised Jetpacks’ evolution is one of gradual shifts rather than sudden ruptures, and as such it’s easy to forget how much the band has changed in the space of three albums. Aficionados should have no issue going straight into this one, but maturation often comes at the price of immediacy. Their exceedingly thoughtful approach might not do much to whet appetites, but those willing to give the ‘Unraveling’ a few spins will find themselves richly rewarded.


‘Unraveling’ by We Were Promised Jetpacks is out now on Fat Cat Records

We Were Promised Jetpacks links: Facebook|Official Website|Twitter

Words by James Berclaz-Lewis (@bearclawlewis )


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