Album review: We Were Promised Jetpacks - "In the Pit of the Stomach"

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16 jan 2012, 22:54

(This post can also be found on my blog: http://wp.me/pjWoO-fE)

Sometimes it just feels great to have some loud music blasting into your ears. It's better if the sonic assault isn't something that is relentless, rather persistent but giving and taking in all the right places. This band has a knack for knowing how to take things back a bit, build up the momentum and charge ahead again at full speed. This album is appropriately titled in that the loudness and sheer power of the guitars only seems to get progressively louder, leaving the listener feeling like they were punched squarely in the gut.

I mean that in the best way possible.

Take opening track "Circles and Squares". It begins with the guitars creating a loud barrage of sound through to the beginning of the verse, where they back down a bit. But they can't seem to hold themselves back for very long. Everything returns to full volume save for the voice, which retains its calm in the eye of the storm. In that way the voice creates a point of balance. The entire latter half of the song consists of a steady buildup. The amount of energy that is created seems unbearable for a while, yet continues to accumulate, exploding into the conclusion of the track . Before we are given the chance to catch our breath, the next track, "Medicine", is already building itself up with maniacally pounded guitars in a thick, clear tone.



The name of the band even manages to capture some of the barely restrained energy of the anger or disbelief at unfulfilled promises. Track after track the album unfolds in a roar. "Through the Dirt and the Gravel" benefits from layers of rhythmic complexity courtesy of the bass shifting the established pulse. Layers of melodic guitar lines weave throughout the bridge while the vocals are recorded to sound a bit more distant and cold. The frantic, tremolando strumming of the guitars form an active backdrop as singer Adam Thompson belts "I have soared higher than eagles..." which is followed by the song really building up a big head of steam. The same distant treatment of the vocals is used to great affect in "Sore Thumb" and "Pear Tree", where the instruments nearly completely fade out, the voice calls out from an apparent distance, immediately after which the wall of guitars slams into us full throttle.

But, as mentioned before, the band knows exactly when to pull back, which is exactly the purpose that the entire song "Act On Impulse" seems to be fulfilling. Of course it only begins subdued. The entire track reveals itself to be a slow burning constant crescendo building up one element at a time, adding more vocal harmonies, cross rhythms, drums and other various instruments and effects in the background.

This certainly isn't to say that the entire album is comprised of loud guitars and swirls of cacophonous distortion. We Were Promised Jetpacks has the enviable talent of being able to balance those elements with sweet melodies in the vocals, or sometimes hidden in understated guitar lines. Both of these can be found in "Picture of Health". They also aren't afraid to repeat things several times in order to give elements the proper amount of space to grow. If that means having an instrumental introduction that clocks in at over 2 minutes then so be it. We Were Promised Jetpacks aren't bound by structure and aren't afraid to break from it.

A great line from "Boy in the Backseat" states "If there's breath in my lungs, then there's wars to be won". That line displays the fight contained in the songs. Strength without aggression, pride and power controlled but not held back.

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