We Were Promised Jetpacks - These Four Walls
James McDonald 01/07/2009
Oh the folly of youth! We Were Promised Jetpacks, (a band whose name alone drew them to my attention some months ago and have since lead to a fleeting interest) are at the forefront of a fresh, revitalised Scottish music scene at present, credibly keeping company amidst the likes of Dananananaykroyd, Errors and Copy Haho amongst others. Although rarely venturing from their homeland, with a run across the UK alongside Frightened Rabbit being their only notable outing, the four-tet now aim to further stretch boarders with the release of their debut long player, 'These Four Walls'.
The early signs are good. Opener 'It's Thunder And It's Lightening' is a broody storm as its name would suggest, which, after a scornful 'drop D' riff, hits hard much like Mumm-ra's 'Now Or Never' did back in 2007. Tremolo guitars and bulky toms are an apt introduction to this band, no more so than to vocalist Adam Thompson warm dialect, akin to a young Roddy Woomble back when his band were breaking windows. It is this tone which, in all honesty, is WWPJ's unique selling point. Couple this with the barrage of enthusiastic ditties that comprise the first three tracks, and a quarter of the way through one would be forgiven for thinking that their initial promise had been comfortably delivered. Down beat offerings such as 'Conductor' and 'This Is My House...' offer suitable respite from the bursts of energy which are prominent throughout the album and the collective as a whole. Similarly, the acoustic sombreness of 'An Almighty Thud' would be just in gracing mix tapes across the country.
However, having spent some time absorbing this record, I can't help but felling somewhat short-changed. As a band, Jetpack's song-writing abilities are without question; structures, although tepidly tame, are for the most well mapped and executed, whilst the production of the release offers for some lovely soundscapes, 'A Half Built House' being the notable example here. However they simultaneously demonstrate tyronic tendencies - a middle eight break in 'Quiet Little Voices' which seems no more than an afterthought, and a general tenacity for a four chord comfort zone. The most disappointing portrayal of my reservations can be found with 'Moving Clocks Run Slow', beginning cautiously with an intriguing riff conjuring imagery of the Pixies at their prime, before disintegrating into the bastard child of Bloc Party, with Kookish wooping adding a final nail. Similarly, 'Keeping Warm' is for the most one long build up which never really goes anywhere at all - most frustrating indeed. Any beauty is lost by the tedious bass line, and again you find yourself screaming out for just that extra bit of invention that would make this band whole. I don't wish for this to come across as harsh pompousness, but realistically there's nothing on this album that hasn't been done before. Yes it's unique, in both tone and delivery, with Thompson's voice being one which boarders on the iconic. However ultimately there is no irony in how apt their band name is.
The folly of youth perhaps? Well maybe, but I try not to remain too disheartened. There is an awful lot of promise on this album which, in its entity, is a catalogue of examples as to the potential WWPJ's posses. At such a young age, this was never going to be a career affirming concept piece, but its a credible account for a band who we've seen little of to date, and it'll be enough to give them a share of the limelight for some months to come. For the meantime, I'll store this band under the heading 'Likely to benefit from drug-binges and hotel hookers', along with You Me At Six and Operator Please.