We Were Promised Jetpacks – In the Pit of the Stomach

written by: October 18, 2011
Release Date: October 4, 2011


Everyone seems to think “Scottish Emo” is breaking news. And maybe it is. But then, how did we not see it coming after Franz Ferdinand’s teenage dance floor, Mogwai’s brooding hypnosis, Belle and Sebastian’s lovelorn whine or The Cinematics in general? It’s a genre that seems to have emerged holistically out of an already fertile scene. We Were Promised Jetpacks, along with FatCat labelmates Frightened Rabbit, appear to be the self-appointed marshals. The trouble is—if Scotch Emotional does exist—almost all of the aforementioned bands do it more tastefully than We Were Promised Jetpacks.

In the Pit of the Stomach winds on like an incomplete thought, bleeding the listener of patience while refusing to give them that all-coveted catharsis. Everything from the album’s lettering to the band’s stage aesthetic to their name points to the worst clichés of your best friend’s-boyfriend’s emo band; to that end—the shows are apparently killer.  What’s recorded on tape may not be quite what you expect, but it’s close enough to fit a working definition of the stereotype.

There are tall walls of guitar sound, endless clean riffing, distorted drums, waxy vocals from frontman Adam Thompson and a lyric sheet worthy of preteen Tumblr feeds. OK, maybe that’s too harsh. The voice of the album alternates between foolhardy naivety and experience, so much so that it becomes difficult to believe either. Lines such as, “I’m soaring through the occasions of all the years that I’ve wasted,” are almost too self-indulgent to really care a lick for.

WWPJ rarely manages to shave a number below four minutes, and while we are shortchanged on the totally indulgent, shoegazing instrumentals, it’s probably because the boys don’t want to preclude radio airplay.

There’s incredible repetition of melody (the vocal-line often mirrors the guitars) and insistence on lyrical hooks to the extent that sometimes what seems juvenile is given weight and, too suddenly, significance.

What’s to note? Thompson’s vocals, for one. While the performance itself is bland and unconvincing, it belies versatility, a noxious character intrinsic in the sound of his voice, not to mention the woeful words it pronounces. There’s standout (get this) “Sore Thumb,” which uses a trilled rubato lead and an epic buildup from hallway singing to get an ear-bleeding, anthemic finale. “Act on Impulse” has some of the most fetching production work in the album—reversed violins, rollicking floor toms and an endless distorted drone beneath a voice full of happy regrets.

Those pining for emotional sing-alongs—a gushing energy from the gut—will be sated, but to those hoping this would be the We Were Promised Jetpacks album where the band bridled their considerable talent and energy into a disciplined art to be reckoned with: Well, it might be another year.

We Were Promised Jetpacks – In the Pit of the Stomach tracklist:

  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”