Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Review: We Were Promised Jetpacks - These Four Walls (* * * *)

So far, I'm not burned out yet on earnest Scottish rock bands, though I feel like my limit can't be far off. Fortunately, We Were Promised Jetpacks is among the best of the country's recent imports, and their debut, These Four Walls, is a strong introduction to a band that looks to have a bright future. As has been mentioned around the web, 'Jetpacks' share much in common with labelmates Frightened Rabbits, though 'Jetpacks' style is of a much more bombastic rock 'n' roll persuasion where their musical cousins prefer a folk-based approach. The flair for dramatic relationship narratives and thickly-accented wailing remains a common thread, though, and These Four Walls is packed with emotionally charged tunes and catchy pop hooks.

The best tunes on the record are the catchiest, when We Were Promised Jetpacks keeps the energy high and the songs focused on the hooks. Opener "It's Thunder and its Lightning" and the equally incendiary "Quiet Little Voices" are long as pop tunes go (well over four minutes each), but they pack a genuine punch musically and lyrically. The band easily swing through different tempos while creating interesting loud/soft dynamics that keep the listener entertained while also offering the occasional respite from singer Adam Thompson's sometimes blaring vocal delivery. Their slightly more artistic and somewhat unique approach gives the band the ability to follow in the footsteps of both past greats and current peers without retreading TOO much old ground. Occasionally, they get a bit over-dramatic, as on the "Keeping Warm" (which title immediately brought to mind Frightened Rabbit's 2008 hit, "Keep Yourself Warm"), which features an unnecessarily long introduction on an album that should be giving in more to its pop tendencies.

Overall, however, We Were Promised Jetpacks succeeds much more often than they falter and the good tunes on These Four Walls effectively mask the few times when the music feels a little less than inspired. The band's raw instrumental selection and their confidence in tackling both loud rock 'n' roll tunes and more delicate acoustic ballads makes this a debut that stands well with the best new bands this year.

We Were Promised Jetpacks on MySpace