We Were Promised Jetpacks

Album review for Disappear Here, April 2009.

Before I volunteered to review this album on a whim, I’d never listened to We Were Promised Jetpacks before. Their first record is definitely a grower, though. In fact I’m going to be horribly honest here – initially my thoughts on it were “I see why it’s called “These Four Walls”, it’s really boring.” But whether you love the album instantly or it takes a few listens to bring you round, I think it’s worth giving it a chance. I was converted.

We Were Promised Jetpacks. You’ve probably read the name before, or maybe even heard their debut album’s lead single “Quiet Little Voices”. If not then no worries, allow me to enlighten you. The prodigious Scottish four-piece are part of an exciting new breed of Celtic youngsters including Dananananaykroyd (the most annoying name to type, ever), and FatCat label mates The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit, who they’ve just finished a UK tour with. A wry comparison on their MySpace page highlights their youthfulness, stating, “We are older than Diana Vickers. We are younger than Ruth Lorenzo.” Thankfully though, that’s where the X Factor contestant similarities end.

Despite being so young, We Were Promised Jetpacks have been a fully formed band for six years now, and their album “These Four Walls” has taken them four years to complete. Listening to their record, it’s clearly a good thing that they have bided their time and honed their album to near-perfection. Adam Thompson’s singing may be fiercely Scor-tesh, but to compare We Were Promised Jetpacks to bands such as Glasvegas, The View or – ugh – The Proclaimers would be lazy and patronising; their album is such a rich amalgamation of sounds that I’m sure there’s probably at least one track on there that will please even the most cynical of music snobs.

The opening notes of “It’s Thunder And It’s Lightening” are reminiscent of The Maccabees’ “First Love”, but the gentleness of Thompson’s initially soft vocals combined with Michael Palmer’s delicate lead guitar soon build into a loud sense of urgency, the poppy glockenspiel is forgotten and lead singer Adam is eventually yelping “I have to say goodnight/And leave before you’re punchin’ out my lights!” repeatedly as the song ends. “Ships With Holes Will Sink” picks up where the beginning track ends, getting straight to the point with the vocals taking on a more gravelly, angry tone perfectly accompanied by some ferocious drumming on Darren Lackie’s part. “Roll Up Your Sleeves” is a nicely varied track within itself, with a denser layering of sounds than the previous songs. “Conductor” is one of my favourites on the album. It’s contemplative, melodic, beautiful…sadly though, these qualities probably mean that it will find itself being used in some awful, gushy over the top scene in some awful, gushy over the top American teen drama like Gossip Girl, which I definitely hate and never watch, ever. Ahem.

The standout experimental track on the album is “A Half Built House”, a bizarre interlude that says, “We can do pretentious too, you know.” Nonetheless, it will probably be the one that people skip or don’t really get. “This Is My House, This Is My Home” surprises by being the polar opposite, coming over all anthemic indie. XFM will love it, as will fans of Embrace, Doves and Elbow. This brings us to the album’s lead single “Quiet Little Voices” – a song which I haven’t heard on a night out yet, but I hope to. It was made for art school dropouts to dance to, a perfectly crafted soundtrack to any drunken night out, from the shout along chorus to the optimistic mantra that runs through it; “I’m young again…” Having said all that though, “Moving Clocks Run Slow” could easily be that track too, although the pleasant rumbling of Sean Smith’s bass guitar makes it a little less intense than it’s predecessor. “Short Bursts” definitely does what it says on the tin, with its fast paced rhythmic vocals and sudden pounding drums. “Silence is bearable, but only in short bursts,” Thompson howls over a plethora of sounds. He’s not taking any risks, then. The album’s penultimate track is an epic eight-minute tune that encourages us to be grateful for, errr…being born. I jest, I jest, it’s good but it’s just not one of my favourites – I always have had a short attention span.

We Were Promised Jetpacks have opted to bring their debut to a close with an acoustic song, titled “An Almighty Thud”. It seems that they’ve really included everything within their parameters in this impressive debut. Don’t let the sad, reflective closing notes of “An Almighty Thud” get to you though, you can always press play and listen to the whole thing again.

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