Review of We Were Promised Jetpacks album 'These Four Walls released through Fat Cat Records.
In recent years, heading north of the border has been something of a treasure hunt as far as discovering new music is concerned. The gritty elegiac lullabies of Glasvegas, We Are The Physics and dananananaykroyd's shouty punk pop, Camera Obscura and Butcher Boy taking incendiary folk back to its twee roots and Copy Haho's discordant new wave art rock. Of course, the biggest seas of discovery have come via Fat Cat Records - ironically based at the other end of the UK in Brighton - and their seemingly endless roster of astonishingly great Scottish acts. Having literally blown us away in recent years with the sombre noise-laden anecdotes of The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit's more starkly enamoured relationship advice, their latest signings We Were Promised Jetpacks could just be the point where the label's admittedly non-conformist ideals take a huge step into commercial territories.
Originally hailing from Edinburgh, the We Were Promised Jetpacks story actually dates back as far as 2003 and a high school battle of the bands competition. Since then, they've been busy crafting away an exquisite collection of songs, inadvertently making 'These Four Walls' one of the most eagerly awaited debut albums for some time. Indeed, even when an early demo of the band's first single 'Quiet Little Voices' popped up on a Fat Cat compilation CD a year ago amidst a glut of more illustrious company, it stood out like a sore thumb so much so that major radio stations and their programmers were falling over themselves to get them on their shows, not to mention numerous labels beating a path to their door. Of course the latter were too late; Fat Cat had got there first and rather than push them to get the album out before the buzz subsided, they've instead allowed them the space and time to create 'These Four Walls' at their own pace, not to mention enlisting the talents of producer extraordinaire Peter Katis, already renowned for his work on The National's 'Alligator' and 'Boxer' LPs, not to mention the first two Interpol long players also, to help construct a potent mix of the band's live dynamics with his own studio reared mastery.
Indeed there's a measured degree of intensity throughout 'These Four Walls' that proves captivating not only in recognising We Were Promised Jetpacks as a menacing entity in their own right but also adds to their unique, instantly recognisable sound. Part of that is undoubtedly down to the stoic vocal of Adam Thompson, his sporadic piercing screams punctuating 'These Four Walls' and its eleven separate components at irregular intervals. There's also the lolloping bass intros that introduce many of the key elements of the record, the opening 'Its Thunder And Its Lightning' for example, which almost takes on the mantle of a military procession, cascading drums arriving just in time for Thompson's opening lyrical salvo.
And so the dramatic intensity continues, 'Ships With Holes Will Sink' and 'Conductor' fusing gravitating post-punk with dark-edged neo-romanticism that owes as much to the unhinged trajectories of say, Bloc Party or The Futureheads, as it does the more common ground, logistical comparisons WWPJ have found themselves linked with. 'Short Bursts' meanwhile is anything but that, instead it's a powerful anthemic little number that takes the Biffy Clyro route only adding tune and quirky interludes aplenty, while the eight-minute penultimate epic 'Keeping Warm' is nothing short of phenomenal, both in its execution and grandeur.
By closing 'These Four Walls' on the acoustic-tinged 'An Almighty Thud', We Were Promised Jetpacks have provided the ending anyone listening to the previous ten pieces would have least expected, thus creating an air of mystery around the band and possibly their future intentions. What is cut and dried though is that 'These Four Walls' is every bit as good as we'd hoped and expected it to be, and We Were Promised Jetpacks, as with all of those previously mentioned, have struck another chord for Scotland's highly impressive roster when it comes to producing talented new musicians and artists.