My exposure to We Were Promised Jetpacks (who will be abbreviated WWPJ henceforth because typing that gets awfully old) was pretty limited before I listened to In the Pit of the Stomach. As a matter of fact, I really only knew three definitive things about the band;
1). They are associated with and apparently have a ringing endorsement from Frightened Rabbit.
2). Their name is awesome. If bands were judged solely for their name, they’re sitting in the top five with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
3). They are Scottish.
That’s about as green as I can get when listening to something for the first time. Oddly enough, it was those three facts that kept recurring to me while I was listening to it. And from three facts heading in, I have three slightly adjusted opinions headed out.
1). I don’t know where the notion of bands being associated with each other meaning that those two bands will be equally as good came from, but it really raises the bar (quite unfairly) for indie outfits like WWPJ. Did it start with Badfinger and their discipleship to the Beatles? That’s the earliest example I can think of. Maybe Smokey Robinson and Diana Ross? Either way, it is definitely a prominent issue today. Within the past couple of years, there has been a bit of a backlash against rappers like Kid Cudi. I have heard many times that he is overrated, his second album was a bomb, and all sorts of jabs and hubbub about his lack of talent. Undoubtedly, these strong opinions were harvested in the fact that he was “associated” with Kanye West and failed to live up to the hype. What were you really expecting? The second coming of Kanye West? Of course he’s not as good as Kanye. Is that reason enough to disregard his music? At the same time, doesn’t it serve us right for listening to him in the first place? We assumed that the relation to Kanye would equate to Kanye-level music. I swear I have a point with this. WWPJ is pretty much labeled right now as the band that’s associated with Frightened Rabbit (a rather popular group of indie folk darlings). So I think a lot of people are gravitating towards their music in hopes of hearing a Frightened Rabbit album, which, like I said, is really unfair. They’re not Frightened Rabbit. They don’t remind me of Frightened Rabbit. And, as you can imagine, they are not as good as Frightened Rabbit, but, in the interest of fairness, that really shouldn’t affect my assessment of them. I just thought you should know.
2). What’s in a name? If we were judging this band just on their name, I’d slap an A+ 10/10 on it and be done. Much like their alleged similarities to Frightened Rabbit, it was ludicrous of me to assume that this band would be good just because their name was unique. After all, where would The Beatles rank for us with that assertion? At the same time, their name and their cover art (which I absolutely adored as well) gave me really high hopes for the music. The disappointment I had in the music came as such a stark contrast to everything else the band had going for them. Their name, aside from being cool, would also suggest one of those humorous overly dramatic indie bands that lived up to the sort of joke that their name is supposed to be. Wouldn’t you be a little surprised if Mogwai went by a name like Panic! at the Disco? I went in expecting European Fall Out Boy and got an even more Scottish version of (the already very Scottish) Mogwai. I know the comparison may come as a bit of a shock because Mogwai never has, well, you know, lyrics, but I wish WWPJ followed that cue. In the majority of their songs, they seemed to take so much more pleasure in their instrumental rock outs than they did in any of their “singing.” Any time lyrics popped up, it felt the band was doing it out of a sense of duty for us, which could help explain why they feel simplistic, uninspired and totally kill the mood of virtually every song.
3). If you listen to this album, nay, if you listen to so much as one song and have to question whether or not these guys are Scottish, seriously, get some help. These are the most Scottish bunch of Scots I have ever heard in my entire life. These aren’t Gerard Butler or Sean Connery refined even charming Scots. No, these sound like the guys working in rural fields who only ever open their mouths to order a scotch. I’m not kidding. I had a hard time understanding anything that was said on this whole album. That’s okay if you want to be a mood setting instrumental band, but when you’re trying to be a vocalizing rock anthem-producing band, it can be a bit problematic. Maybe some of their songs had emotion or meaning to them, but I never would have known. Somehow, the raw emotion of lyrics loses its effect when I have to translate it after the fact. I think it’s in English, but I really can’t say for sure.
So there. Three questions going in. Three answers coming out. That name’s still cool.