We Were Promised Jetpacks


I don’t know what it is, and I think it’s more than the accent, but Scottish music of late has had a signature sound. It’s influenced by their own countrymen, many of whom they have seen grow to huge international success from familiar beginnings that it has formed a musical landscape more distinctive and proud than that of England or any of its famous musical cities, including Manchester. FatCat album mates Frightened Rabbit, Mogwai, The Twilight Sad, Biffy Clyro; even Dananananakroyd, The Xcerts  and Twin Atlantic bear a similar blue thumbprint. They all make the rousing-yet-scrappy, triumphant sound of an underdog victory; Steven Fletcher poking home in the ninetieth minute. Hampton Park explodes. It might be the referendum talking, but it does bear a relationship to a small influx of isolated, ‘outskirts America’ plaid-rock: Manchester Orchestra, and (we are) Augustines leading the charge, We Were Promised Jetpacks have enjoyed a similar level of success in America where they will play a slew of dates later in the year.

In a parallel universe this was one more international date, ‘Quiet Little Voices’ could well have been Alex Sammond’s ‘Things Can Only Get Better’. In that parallel universe I might not have made it, head ringing from DZ Deathrays the night before. So I nurse a warm Tuborg on the empty terrace and wait for The Deaf Institute to fill.

Fatherson are on first, sporting standard issue plaid rock beards, and start soulfully. It has a crooning, shimmering quality and a poise which belies their ragged look. The lead singer has thick glasses, softening his wild appearance and gives him the look of a smooth voiced fozzy bear; it’s his bell-clear vocals take the lead as the music leans towards expansive, soaring indie-rock. Their love of dynamic changes means this sincerity is occasionally punctured by a glossy 80s power-groove reminiscent of Peter Gabriel, and they prove themselves to be a full blooded warm up act.

The disco ball casts dappled light over the leaves on the flock wallpaper as Jetpacks take the stage, the four guitarists spreading themselves evenly so you only catch the occasional glimpse of the drummer. Their second album is more expansive, more noise and math-rock influenced, and it’s with this they start; sprawling, rising and falling. On the newer material four tumbling guitars blur, trip over each other and combine, giving it an orchestral feel; contrasted as the spotlight falls front and centre, two guitarists standing uselessly, in darkness as they segue wordlessly into ‘Quiet Little Voices’. All the material from the first album is characterised by rumbling drums and half-dischords which mirrors Adam Thompson’s acerbic brogue, and choruses are drawn out, crowd-fuelled wails. When the chorus to ‘Quiet Little Voices’ kicks in, the lights come up and the four guitarists move in synchronised triumph as it reaches a crescendo, heads back, mouths open in communal prayer on and off the stage.

The band look unassuming enough, which emphasises the kitchen sink realism of These Four Walls; no more present than in crowd favourites ‘This is My House, This is My Home’ and ‘Keep Warm’, where the snare sounds like a gunshot and as it comes to a rousing close Adam rises up on his toes and for a moment seems to float. The guttersnipe hubris of ‘Short Bursts’ is followed by a lot of new material from the forthcoming Unravelling (due on October 6th) and its more contemplative tone. New tracks including ‘Keep It Composed’ are low slung and brooding; the band pays homage to Nine Inch Nails, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Nick Cave among others. And it’s these tracks, and ones like them that keep you coming back. The old material is nostalgic, still powerful, and still rings true, but it’s the new material that really turns your head. Since In The Pit of the Stomach, Jetpacks have been cementing their genuine alt-rock credentials, and far from the straight laced indie of a band fresh from high school they now make a sound more akin to A Place to Bury Strangers than the Courteeners, bringing the same air of barely-veiled menace to proceedings.

They are immensely grateful to the Deaf Institute crowd, for being patient, for listening to new stuff, and to a man it gets a fantastic reception. They clearly have a small but passionate fanbase, but it hasn’t put them off making the kind of music they were always aiming for rather than the kind they found success with. They’ve grown up, above and beyond that upstart band who tells it like it is, and it’s now the tour dates that really tell it like it is; The Netherlands, Four in Germany, Vienna, Milan, Switzerland, Paris, a sold out show at the Lexington, followed by thirty U.S. dates and one, tired, triumphant, final show in Glasgow on December 13th. You don’t see Hard-Fi on any thirty date U.S. tours.

Unravelling is due out on October 6th; and comes with my seal of approval, whatever that’s worth.

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John Platt

John was raised between Mum's Motown and Dad's Hawkwind, and likes words almost as much as music. Below are some carefully chosen words about some music John particularly likes.