These Four Walls proved an eclectic 2009 debut by We Were Promised Jetpacks, with "It's Thunder and Lightning" and "Quiet Little Voices" establishing themselves as perpetual hits on the indie scene. This indie circuit usually warms to underdogs and their solid debut encouraged fans to yearn for another release from the Scottish giants. Gentle as Adam Thompson may be on the mic, he's a giant at lyrical disposition, with an endearing accent and a charm juxtaposed that makes one wonder how his croons and lullabies manage to switch to tracks of melodious chaos. What counts the most is that this diversity and variation never seems to falter for the lads.
Their sophomore release In the Pit of the Stomach opens with a bang, and what an understatement that proves to be. "Circles and Squares" is invigorating and corrugates onto the listener's ears with a vitalizing passion; well-accentuated by Sean Smith's riveting basslines. Sean has vastly improved and he was already pretty sound, so this speaks infinite volumes of his masterful contribution on the album. He thumps a la Flea and the resonance is felt with Adam belting "'I'll follow that dark horse and see where he goes / Straight into the forest and out onto the roads." This opening track captivates and lures to set the tone for what the rest of the album offers.
Their passions for Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson and playing alongside fellow Fat Cat labelmates, Frightened Rabbit aside, the band shows why they manage to grace the poppy likes of One Tree Hill and Vampire Diaries. Let's be honest. You don't make the CW's most popular shows by being just an average band. And a Scottish band at that? Surreal, right? Guitarist Michael Palmer stretches the bounds of perfection with Sean's bass on tracks such as "Medicine" and "Through the Dirt and Gravel" with some measure of discord that comes off resoundingly right. They manage to draw an infectious energy that never stops, and maintaining this frenetic pace is not an easy chore.
The standout track seems to be the one representing the calm before the storm, "Act on Impulse," as it personifies a humility and dignity in Adam's words in the simplest of chords and banging of Darren Lackie's drums. It's mystical a track; tribal at times with a powerful message. "We died alone / We died on impact / We act alone / We act on impulse" shows Adam's acclaimed prowess. It's prominent that the band has in its repertoire as many thrashing songs as it does soft and soothing tracks. It transcends a brilliant beat with a message of woe conveyed; and as scary as that sounds, Adam still wins us over to show a spot of light in the dark here.
"Hard to Remember" is a more unconventional track but still carries a lavish sense of accomplishment in the haunting opening riffs. It's as outstanding and genius as Michael and Adam can craft when called upon. The logical train of thought and ideologies more than suffice as they find the architecture to construct the right combo of gusto and hardcore-punch. They never find themselves at sixes and sevens (as the Scots say) and were they to play with kilts, it'd make no difference. "Your Love is a Mirror" is one of the most splendid lines Adam has ever sung and this track is pure warmth engrossed in a cynical mirage, that shows sometimes optimism isn't the best way forward.
WWPJ surprises pleasantly in showing no fear to go heavier and harder. "Sore Thumb" is one of these harder, stamp-the-authority and shattering songs that really starts off in the softest manner. Safe to say, you never anticipate the ride you're in for. It's that kind of shock and awe that makes indie what it is in its resplendence--unexpected rhythm and a genre that thrives on setting apart standards and breaking down all barriers, walls and obstacles placed ahead. WWPJ profusely bleed audio blood as they do just that. "Sore Thumb" leaves a jagged impression. It's raw and rustic…and bold. Daring is what they aim for and what they achieve successfully. From sweet nothings and whispers, the track irradiates a driving tone that pounds on your door like a Halloween kid on a sugar-rush. It's that profound.
Michael's health issues play no part on "Picture of Health" as fans may think, and as he's recovered and ready to hit the road with the boys again, it's easy to assume their live shows are going to pack some hefty punch and pull none away. This is transonic gold to listen to--a rush of staggering music gushing past as Adam reiterates here "There's nothing worse than the beat of a struggling pulse'"--arguably the most potent quote from this album with a deluge of heartache.
I've spoken with Michael personally, and the band's favorite song to perform really gets out of hand in "Boy in the Backseat," as they wanted something that just begs fans to forget strolls and simply rage into a mode of destruction. The pace here is astoundingly harried and this works out so well. "If there's breath in my lungs / Then there's wars to be won" reiterates the skillful composition that fans grew accustomed to from WWPJ. This is aptly titled and it's a riot. There's a morose hue that rears its head on this track but WWPJ always manages to encapsulate some sort of dark romance in their notes. They always abdicate the norm that indie bands seem to be delving into recently and their breath of fresh air is welcome as such. There's an elegance, class and savvy-styled setting to the complexity that they break down so nicely. Their derived final product is remarkably arranged, and quite different from their past works.
"Human Error" converges with some educational lyrics--"If I was a writer / I'd write my opinions and I'd send home my letters just to see the lessons in me"--to encourage fans to accept that their thought process always hinges on honesty and simplicity. Their vanguard stance of depicting personal struggles amid the precepts and doctrines of society is well drawn out here as Adam defines and refines what it takes out of him to pen these songs. It isn't my favorite track on the album but it is as revealing as he gets while not propelling any emotional dogma onto the fans in a forced manner.
The final track "Pear Tree" rounds off with a fitted, brilliant and tight-knit ending. It never lingers on boredom as it annexes the remainder of the album with something that's beyond words. It's their modus operandi--cool…calm…collected; segueing into something enraged and loud. 'You'll be the lighthouse and I'll be the road / You'll be the pear and I'll be the tree' commences the allure of what WWPJ do so well on this song. It's a well-orchestrated piece of musical chaos when we least expect it. We're suspended in a magnificent, distinguished crescendo and the climax of this final track deserves all the praise it gets as it signifies the end to one of, if not the, best indie albums of 2011.