Catharsis: It’s the release of pent-up tension, that blissful movement when, after much teeth gritting and fist clenching, everything explodes in a surge of emotion. It’s also one of the most powerful tools in any respectable band’s arsenal (there’s a reason why “All My Friends” was so damn popular). The Scottish post-rockers of We Were Promised Jetpacks reach for an album full of those moments of lightning-in-a-bottle urgency with their sophomore LP, In The Pit Of The Stomach. And while some of these attempts are successful, more than once, catharsis dissolves into cacophony—intense, churning verses unfurl into peaks that are barely discernible from the preceding sections.
We Were Promised Jetpacks definitely progresses on this album. In contrast to the rushed, eight-day recording approach of its debut, These Four Walls—a plan that left little room for the band’s huge sound to breathe—In The Pit Of The Stomach was fine-tuned for three weeks in the bitter Icelandic wilderness. The guitars that were merely “big” on the last record are downright Godzillan here. Take “Sore Thumb,” where riffs descend on the listener like an army of angry bees, stirring up clouds of feedback in their wake. There’s also the furious, pummeling onslaught of “Boy In The Backseat.” Lead singer Adam Thompson’s schoolboy-soft voice cuts into the thick of the noise, creating a terrific dissonance that only weeks of preparation could produce.
Of course, noise isn’t as powerful unless it’s contrasted with softness. We Were Promised Jetpacks’ best moments—hopefully indicative of what’s to come in the future—arrive when the band employs such shifts. At first, superb closer “Pear Tree” teeters on the verge of a noisy climax before taking an unexpected turn into an echoing, minimalist bridge. And then the noise beast rears its head again, thrusting everything into one hell of a closer: thunderous drums, exponentially growing guitars. Such auditory teasing is the stuff of catharsis, but it’s due largely to the quieter parts.
The tracks that lack such dynamics—wall-of-noise thumpers like “Hard To Remember” and “Circles And Squares”—sound, well, just loud. That’s We Were Promised Jetpacks’ ultimate misstep: The band aims for epic heights but all too often goes with the assumption that grandness is necessitated solely by noise. That said, there are glimmers of great things to come all over this record. Consider it, then, a step in the right direction—though by no means a leap.