Release Date 12/04/2010
By Chris Oliver
What’s happening to Scottish music nowadays? Scottish bands seem to have developed a real identity within guitar music – perhaps seeking to make amends after the turd that was Franz Ferdninand plopped, steaming onto the British music scene. Bleak, melancholy and down-beat, yet without being depressing – like the last rays of sun on a winter’s day, the soundscapes of the new Scot-rock (and Gael-ternative) not only transport us mentally to the imagined landscapes of its origins, but they may well turn out to be the next big thing.
‘We Were Promised Jetpacks’ latest EP ‘The Last Place You’ll Look’ has recognisable characteristics from this new scene: militaristic drums, cathedral-sized reverbs, strains of olde folk music from the land of heather, lochs and Irn-Bru, and a voice best described as ‘wan’ – oh, and that accent. It’s my prejudice, of course, but I immediately pigeon-hole bands when I hear singers from north of the border (in this case, Edinburgh).
Although I am the first to admit that Biffy Clyro, among others, do break the mould, I stick this kind of music in a file that says ‘sloppy, loose, unprofessional’ – and on this showing, ‘We Were Promised Jetpacks’ live up to my stereotype.
All kinds of instruments pop in for a quick chat – horns, strings, piano, glockenspiel… They’re given plenty of room, although that brings me to a geeky bone of contention: I get the feeling this was recorded on the cheap. Some of the sounds don’t quite have that ‘professional studio’ quality to them – and various instruments (the drums on the ‘A Far Cry’, the piano on ‘This is my house, This is my Home’, and the vocals on ‘Short Bursts’) all have the same stoney echo to them, probably from a bad live room. It doesn’t really drag it down much though, unless you are a tone-fascist like me.
I am not overly impressed by the musicianship either, especially from the drummer, but according to the press release, this is a more restrained and soulful offering from Jetpacks, showing off their diversity and whatnot – so maybe they’re better at doing what they do best. The vocal lines are pretty samey – especially the first lines of the four longer songs. Overall though, it’s enchanting, emotional, evocative, lyrical and strangely uplifting, despite being very downbeat.