We Were Promised Jetpacks – Unravelling // Album Review

wwpjFatCat Records – October 6th

Jetpacks clearly have a sense of humour, or they wouldn’t have come up with such a great name, and their interviews often convey a pleasing lightness of touch. Strange then, that their music is so stoney-faced, as sombre as the latest Nordic noir and as overwrought as a voice-over trailing the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

Unravelling is the Scottish band’s third album, the follow up to 2011’s In The Pit Of The Stomach. It places them as a powerful, accomplished rock group, and kicks in with a melodic flurry of near-soulful prog on ‘Safety In Numbers’. Comprising of a slick groove and a fluid synth, run by recently added fifth member Stuart McGachan, it is easily the most expansive and absorbing track here. ‘I Keep It Composed’, too, is notable for its taut chorus hook, while WWPJ’s bullish rhythm section come over like Bombay Bicycle Club on steroids during ‘Peace Sign’.

However, the MOR stadium-bait of ‘Night Terror’ (hell, it worked for Kings of Leon) is a turning point, and the band’s rigid composite of Editors meets emo soon becomes a more difficult proposition. Rumbling thunderclap drums, monster-truck bass and pealing guitars underpin Adam Thompson’s fearful lyrics as each bombastic doomscape marches to its claustrophobic coda. “Where Are My Manners?” Thompson worries over the stagnant tick-tock of ‘Ricochet’, and, on the monolithic ‘Moral Compass’, requests “Leeches Come and Suck My Blood/Rid Me Of The Bugs I’ve Caught”. As guitarist Michael Palmer slowly, epically, practices his scales during the instrumental post-rock dirge of ‘Peace Of Mind’, the album’s initial inventiveness and sprightly energy are long forgotten.

Sure, there’s nothing to fault in Jetpacks’ musicianship or Thompson’s tender delivery: ‘Unravelling’ finds the band assured and polished. Yet its colossal melodramatics cast a dense and joyless shadow, creating an unappealing, impersonal space to linger in for too long.

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Buy: We Were Promised Jetpacks – Unravelling 

Live: The Lexington – October 8th (Sold Out)