Tuesday, September 27, 2011

REVIEW: We Were Promised Jetpacks - In the Pit of the Stomach

The list of bands whose second album is better than their first is small. And for Glasgow band We Were Promised Jetpacks to become one of the few to do so in was no small task, as their These Four Walls was a deservedly well received debut. However, in my view, the boys have managed to do it with In the Pit of the Stomach. While These Four Walls was a promising album with several exceptional songs, In the Pit of the Stomach is a complete package that deserves serious consideration as an album to be included among the year's better offerings. More that that, it can be taken as a statement that WWPJ is a serious band whose work should be followed.

Speculating on the reasons why this album succeeds, I think that one reason is that band didn't change direction. They took their big, proggy, post-punk version of Celtic tinged rock and tightened, refined and polished it, resisting the temptation to prove at this point that they could do more (note that they did release a good acoustic EP last year). I'd also offer that the decision to have the album recorded by Andrew Bush, their live sound engineer, is one of the reasons. This band has a big sound, guitars, drums and vocals making a statement in every song. Bush showcases that sound live, and he captures it impeccably for the recording. But we shouldn't overlook the obvious reason that a young, ambitious band should get better if they are focused on their craft, rather than just enjoying their new fame. The recorded proof speaks well for WWPJ on that score.

So, what do we get with In the Pit of the Stomach? As mentioned above, big riffs, big vocals, big sound overall. But variety comes from judicious use of changes in tempo and changes in volume, often in the same track, and echo, distortion and reverb. Compare the frenetic, spiky "Medicine" with the "Act on Impulse", and you get a sense of the variety WWPJ have provided on the album. I'm particularly fond of "Circles and Squares" (the big, opening statement track), "The Drawing Board", "Act on Impulse", "Picture of Health", and "Sore Thumb" at the moment. But quite honestly, I've listened to the album about five times today, and each time through I like it even more, but change my rating of the songs to some extent.

The recently released single, "Medicine"

"Act on Impulse"
Act On Impulse by WeWerePromisedJetpacks. Uploaded with BandPage by RootMusic

In the Pit of the Stomach is released on October 3 by Fat Cat Records. In addition to European dates, the band has scheduled an 18-city US tour from October 26 to November 15, with the last day in my home, Seattle.

Fat Cat Records

1 comment:

charlie said...

Pretty sure I caught these guys live at some point and cant rememeber where now. That aside, great review and looking for to hearing this new album from the Glasgow band.