‘We Were Promised Jetpacks’ new album… Promises Jetpacks?!?!
Reviewed by: Matthew Lawhead
Edited by: Evan Rubin
It can be extremely challenging for a band to continue making music once the initial rush wears off. There are countless pressures, from fans wanting you to constantly evolve your sound while never straying too far from the initial sound they associate you with to your own battle with artistic expression and integrity. On their 2018 album The More I Sleep the Less I Dream, Scottish rockers We Were Promised Jetpacks fought with the monotony of constantly performing the same routine and opted to take an extended leave in order to craft an album that represented their journey together. In the official press release, it was described as an album “about four people who have grown up together, making a conscious choice to keep writing music and seeing where that takes them.” The album served as a capstone to a decade of growth and evolution in their sound, production, and songwriting capabilities as a group of four.
Going into their fifth album, We Were Promised Jetpacks faced a completely new landscape with different trials and opportunities. As their tour was drawing to a close, founding member Michael Palmer announced that he would be departing the band. This alone could have proven fatal for most bands, and it was followed soon after by sweeping lockdowns throughout the UK and the world. In the past, the quartet had been vocal about being more of a live band than a studio outfit, but now the trio would need to write and record the album remotely without the opportunity to iterate on it in the live setting. Despite the countless challenges and variables in their way, We Were Promised Jetpacks was able to deliver a fantastic follow up.
Very little could prepare me for the first track on Enjoy the View, as “Not Me Anymore” sounds completely different from the rest of the band’s discography. Instead of kicking off with soaring guitars, the album begins with subdued synths and layered vocals in a slow-burner that rewrites expectations for the Scottish group. Rather quickly, the rest of the album proves that they are still the band that fans were coming for, but “Not Me Anymore” is a bold opener that serves as a great introduction to the new rendition of the band. It captures their ability to craft beautiful soundscapes while also showing their willingness to adapt and ever evolve.
The majority of Enjoy the View sees We Were Promised Jetpacks delivering on their ability to craft sonically dense rock that still maintain a strong sense of melody. While the production frequently approaches wall-of-sound, it is also always clean enough to make out the individual bricks that build each track. Whether it be on more introspective tracks like “What I Know Now” or on the rockier tracks like “Nothing Ever Changes,” the soundscape is always incredibly lush and rewarding to listen to, whether you are letting the experience wash over you or trying to pick out each individual piece (This sentence could be split in two). There are new sounds here, but they all fit into the sound that the band has cultivated over the years. Rather than tearing down their previous work to become something completely new, the Scottish trio has instead taken their sound to a new level of precision and polish.
When taken as a whole, their fifth album feels like the natural evolution of We Were Promised Jetpacks’ sound. It follows their path of steady maturation in songwriting and production, likely due to the nature of the album’s creation. For anyone who liked their previous works, Enjoy the View does an excellent job at providing more of the sonically lush rock that the Scottish band excels at. In many ways, this feels like the band’s most cohesive release with excellence at every level. The ten tracks all ebb and flow along in a manner that makes the greater whole far better than the individual songs. This is, however, where the one criticism I have comes through. While every song manages to make the album better, none of them truly stand out on their own.
The best example I can give of this is by comparing the closing track of Enjoy the View against the title track from The More I Sleep, The Less I Dream. “Just Don’t Think About It” is a slower song that gives the listener a chance to cool down and let the album wash over them before it comes to a true end. In this way, it is more of a falling action with no true climax. The song is fantastic in this context, with comparatively sparse instrumentation and layered vocals providing a rich atmosphere for contemplation. It starts soft and steadily builds while exploring a musical idea until it reaches a final peak right as the album ends. While it is still an excellent song in a vacuum, it unfortunately loses a lot of the strength it gets from its placement in the album. The same can not be said for the title track of their previous album. “The More I Sleep, The Less I Dream” was not only an excellent closer, but was also a remarkable track to listen to on it’s own. It acted more as a perfect climax rather than a falling action, making it one of the most memorable tracks on the album.
It is perhaps unfair to compare any song against the titular closer from We Were Promised Jetpacks’ 2018 release as it is not only one of my favorite closing tracks of all time, but is one of the few I use as an example for what I wish every closer could achieve. While Enjoy the View doesn’t have a true knockout track, that doesn’t take away from how impressive the album is and from how solid all of the individual songs are. Enjoy the View is a welcome addition to We Were Promised Jetpacks’ discography and I am certain I will be listening to it for years to come.