Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Album Review: We Were Promised Jetpacks - In The Pit Of The Stomach

France and Italy are often cited as the nations which boast the sexiest voices, but when it comes to singing there's nothing that can beat the ragged, windswept Scottish drawl. No matter how harsh, tuneless or pissed up the voice, there's something undeniably beautiful and serene about that far northerly accent which is capable of igniting even the most lifeless of songs. Given that it's residents have such a powerful natural attribute, it's unsurprising that Scotland yields so many great bands, but even by it's standards the current crop is exciting. Biffy Clyro, The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit have all achieved a level of critical or commercial success (or both), and although they count those peers among their key influences, Edinburgh crew We Were Promised Jetpacks can now also be categorised alongside such prestigious company.

As you might have guessed from that intro, the centrepiece to WWPJ's music is their vocalist, Adam Thompson. His voice isn't the strongest, and if he belonged to any other nationality it would most likely act as a hindrance rather than a strength, but his hoarse chords are nevertheless blessed with a life-affirming sense of honesty and conviction which only a thick Scottish accent can bring. It does, of course, help that he's a damn fine lyricist on his day too, and that was one of the main factors which propelled his band's debut LP, These Four Walls into the conscience of critics, some of whom hailed them as the region's next great musical hope. Such remarks may have been a little hyperbolic, but the music on that album had a universal appeal which struck a nerve with plenty of listeners, so the fact that this follow-up is essentially more of the same comes as no disappointment.

Granted, the general tone of In The Pit Of The Stomach is marginally bleaker than that of it's predecessor, but all of the key ingredients remain the same. The rough edged guitars still bring the noise, which can at times reach exhilarating peaks, while Sean Smith's thudding bass lines provide a rock solid musical backbone around which Thompson moulds his songs. Being a ragged Scot, it's hardly surprising that the majority of the frontman's words are markedly bleak, but that does nothing to mask their occasionally brutal effectiveness. Tracks like 'Hard To Remember' and 'Picture Of Health' especially impress in this department, and while Thompson also airs his more tender side during 'Act On Impulse' the general theme is noticeably more abrasive.

Generously, the band also decided to save the album's two brightest moments until last. Penultimate track 'Human Error' is a bundle of energy which in a nutshell sums up all that is good about the quartet, while closer 'Pear Tree' provides the most compelling evidence yet that the band are growing in confidence as a collective group of songwriters. Should they continue such improvement, it's not inconceivable that they could one day release a true classic, but for now it's just great to hear a promising Scottish band growing in stature and seemingly on a road to improvement. A more telling progression will surely be needed come album number three, but for now this is another thoroughly enjoyable record which will prove more than enough to maintain this excellent young group's forward momentum.

Track List:

1. Circles And Squares
2. Medicine
3. Through The Dirt And The Gravel
4. Act On Impulse
5. Hard To Remember
6. Picture Of Health
7. Sore Thumb
8. Boy In The Backseat
9. Human Error
10. Pear Tree

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