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Live Review: We Were Promised Jetpacks with Bear Hands and Royal Bangs, Black Cat, Washington DC – 27th October 2011

By on Monday, 31st October 2011 at 2:00 pm

Scottish band We Were Promised Jetpacks have played in DC twice before, but this was their largest headlining show to date. Along with them were two bands they were very familiar with – bands they’ve toured with before, but on the other side of the country: Bear Hands from New York and Royal Bangs from Texas. I thought they were unusual choices, given that both of these bands play with keyboards and synths, whereas We Were Promised Jetpacks has the basic rock ‘n’ roll line-up of guitars, bass, and drums. The Jetpacks, known for their loud and rowdy shows, released their second album, ‘In the Pit of the Stomach’, at the start of October on Fat Cat, and this North American tour was the first time they’ve played the new material stateside. (You can read John’s review of the new album here.)

Bear Hands played first. (You can read guitarist Dylan Rau’s answers to our Quickfire Questions here.) It has been 3 years since I heard them on Lammo’s radio programme but I had not had a chance to see them live yet. Surprisingly (for a Black Cat show anyway), they started at their appointed set time of 8:30. Bear Hands is an indie band that I’d best describe as a mix of MGMT (psych rock with wiggly guitars) and Friendly Fires (tropicalia with maracas and lots of drums), just slightly less dancey and maybe a bit more headbang-y? There was one fan there that was an obvious fan of all three bands; he knew all the songs and shouted “I fucking love you!” and “you’re fucking awesome!” at regular intervals throughout all three bands’ performances. Their last song was ‘What a Drag’, the single from 2008 that I’m sure you’ve heard by now. “Long nails… “ wailed *name of lead singer*, leading all the diehard Bear Hands fans down the front to move and groove to their rhythms; it was a great end to an all too short set.


In general, the genre “noise rock” scares me: it conjures up long-haired indie kids that don’t play in tune. Royal Bangs, then, were a surprising exception to the rule. I have been wracking my brain trying to think of how to describe their sound. For starters though, let me begin with something unrelated to their sound, they’re four beardy guys that wear plaid. Thankfully, they sound nothing like Kings of Leon. When they’ve got the keyboards out, they sound like Procol Harum, or maybe Billy Joel if he was cooler. But a couple of their ‘rocking like we just don’t care’ kind of numbers reminded me a bit of Led Zeppelin, particularly the way lead singer screamed his head off. Their drummer Chris Rusk gets the gold star for the hardest working musician of the night; he attacked his drum kit with ferocity, yet the way he was smiling as he did it, you just know he was having the time of his life.

The almost full Black Cat floor waited in anticipation for their heroes We Were Promised Jetpacks. As should probably be expected, songs from their 2008 debut ‘These Four Walls’ received a raucous reception, with a loud roar as the first guitar notes of ‘Keep Warm’, ‘Roll Up Your Sleeves’ (video below) and ‘These Four Walls’ were played. This band has toured a lot since the first time I saw them open on a Fat Cat North American tour of 2009 featuring the coheadlining and relative Fat Cat elders Brakes and the Twilight Sad, but the Jetpacks show no sign of compromising on or apologising for their loudness. While marked maturity is not evident on all of ‘In the Pit of the Stomach’, the mostly lyricless ‘Act on Impulse’ was a punishing wall of sound that really has to be seen and heard in person to be believed.


Perhaps it’s because I hadn’t seen a gig at the Cat since April (nearly 7 months prior for the Pains of Being Pure at Heart) but I forgot how great it was to be mere metres away from a guy really going for it on his guitar. Now that I play bass, I was in complete awe watching Sean Smith. The first time I bought guitar picks, I asked which thickness I should get. The bloke at the counter says, “well, it depends on how you plan on attacking”. ‘Attacking’ is exactly what Smith and guitarist Michael Palmer did all night: their motto appeared to be play it fast, play it loud, and play it with feeling.

Highlights of the night included the new single ‘Medicine’ (watch the Video of the Moment here) and ‘Ships’. ‘Pear Tree’, with the lyrics you be the lighthouse / and I’ll be the road…” and other you/me comparisons, was unexpected Scottish soul. Maybe this is an indication of future direction”? Their closing song, ‘Thunder and Lightning‘, was a quiet (for the Jetpacks) and introspective way to end the night.

After the cut: WWPJ set list and more photos.
Continue reading Live Review: We Were Promised Jetpacks with Bear Hands and Royal Bangs, Black Cat, Washington DC – 27th October 2011


Video of the Moment #591: We Were Promised Jetpacks

By on Monday, 3rd October 2011 at 6:00 pm

Earlier today was John’s review of We Were Promised Jetpacks‘ new album, ‘In the Pit of the Stomach’. But now we have a video for you, the video for the track ‘Medicine’, which came out as a digital single on the 23rd of September (the first single from the album, in fact). In the visual below, comics meet reality as the Jetpacks’ relentless driving music plays in the background.



Album Review: We Were Promised Jetpacks – In the Pit of the Stomach

By on Monday, 3rd October 2011 at 12:00 pm

We Were Promised Jetpacks managed to excite me from the off and that’s just because I think their name is super cool. ‘In the Pit of the Stomach’, the follow-up to 2009’s ‘These Four Walls’, delivers expansive and intelligent punk rock throughout and is the kind of album that sounds immediate. It sounds like it needs to be played all the way through to be fully appreciated. WWPJ have a unique sound coined from their debut: quick deliberate beats, going along to a frantic guitar.

The opening track ‘Circles and Squares’ epitomizes the record’s immediacy. It clangs into life with a visceral, clattering drum pounding before being injected with some rather clever guitars. It’s a definite marker for the album’s rocky qualities and clearly indicates the bullishness of the band from the start. They made this record to sound how they wanted and would not be forced to conform to it becoming ‘These Four Walls’, Pt. ’. Single ‘Act on Impulse’ (Martin’s review here) starts a lot calmer than ‘Circles and Square’, but this only adds to the grandeur of the track when it kicks in. The drums on the track are ominous and make it seem as if a great beast is marching towards you and just when you think the intro will never stop, then it slows and the guitar starts again. The lyrics come in and you know you have come along to a true beast of a track.

WWPJ’s second effort is one that is difficult to pin down, as at times they can be brash ballsy and completely out there, and at other times on the record, they just retreat into their shell and the album finds itself stunted by this. Adam Thompson can belt out a chorus for sure and on indie number ‘Sore Thumb’ he is at his evocative best, with ‘Act On Impulse being a close second. The songs are smart, but it just feels that while they seem to be honing their style as time goes on, they haven’t really settled anywhere they are happy with. With all the chopping and changing, this means this record won’t reach the heights this band deserve. But it’s an admirable effort.


‘In the Pit of the Stomach’, the second album from We Were Promised Jetpacks, is available today from Fat Cat Records.


Quickfire Questions #17: Michael Palmer of We Were Promised Jetpacks

By on Friday, 2nd September 2011 at 12:00 pm

Autumn is shaping up to be a very busy time for Scots We Were Promised Jetpacks. Their hotly anticipated second album, ‘In the Pit of the Stomach’, will be released on the 3rd of October on Fat Cat, after which time the band will go on tour in both the UK and America. Before the madness hits, we managed to pin down guitarist Michael Palmer to answer our Quickfire Questions. There’s a song that makes him quite angry…read on to find out which one it is…

1. What song is your earliest musical memory?

Watching a tape my dad’s band playing on The Old Grey Whistle Test, and me accidentally taping over a little bit of it. Whoops.

2. What was your favourite song as a child?
My gran once shouted at my mum because I was running about singing ‘Teenage Kicks’ (the Undertones).

3. What song makes you laugh?
‘1942’ by George Dawes.


4. What song makes you cry?
‘Woe is Me’ by Mr. Krabs (of Spongebob Squarepants fame).


5. What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
‘Business Time’ – Flight of the Conchords. Sorry.


6. What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
‘If I Were a Boy’ by Beyonce. it makes me quite angry. It’s just so fucking horrible from start to finish. Who let her do that? Who?

7. Which song (any song written in the last century) do you wish you’d written yourself?

Ooooh toughy. You’d want it to be a pop number, for sure. but something classy. Hmmm. ‘Trick Me’ by Kelis, maybe?

8. Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
i’m going for film/tv writer here and saying Aaron Sorkin.

9. If you hadn’t become a musician, what job do you think you’d be doing right now?

Something pointless, for sure.

10. If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why?
‘All Day’ by Girl Talk. Truly great album! He’s a genius, that dude (Gregg Michael Gillis).


In the Post #75: We Were Promised Jetpacks – Act on Impulse

By on Monday, 18th July 2011 at 12:00 pm

‘Act on Impulse’ is the recently released taster for the forthcoming We Were Promised Jetpacks album ‘In the Pit of the Stomach’, to be released on Fat Cat on the 3rd of October. The very definition of a slow builder, this majestic track features a no less than 2-minute intro, with simple plucked guitar and kick drum developing into a complex groove of hypnotic future echoes. Suddenly, the edifice vanishes, and the song is afoot.

With an opening couplet of “He died alone / he died on impact”, this is never going to be a floor-filling party tune. But together with the second verse’s “we act alone / we act on impulse”, a sense of the song’s portent starts to develop. But before the sombre lyrical content can be fully realised, the attention is grabbed by a full Mogwai of sound, the vocal fading behind a morass of layered guitars. The drums are processed to within a micron of their life; guitars are similarly thrashed. A plaintive repetition of the vocal refrain later, it’s all over.

On this evidence, ‘In the Pit of the Stomach’ will be full of grand gestures, powerful arrangements, and serious if not maudlin lyrical content. Just the ticket for those ever-lengthening autumn evenings.


Download ‘Act on Impulse’ for free by entering your address below. We Were Promised Jetpacks go on the road in October (details here), right after the new album’s release on 3 October.



We Were Promised Jetpacks / October 2011 UK Tour

By on Thursday, 14th July 2011 at 9:00 am

One of my favourite live bands, We Were Promised Jetpacks, will be touring the UK in October. They also have a one-off gig in Dundee in early September. Tickets are available now.

Hear a track from the band, ‘Act on Impulse’, on their official Web site. Their sophomore album, ‘In the Pit of the Stomach’, will be released on Fat Cat on the 3rd of October.

Friday 9th September 2011 – Dundee Doghouse
Saturday 1st October 2011 – Stirling Tollbooth (Reload Festival)
Thursday 6th October 2011 – Edinburgh Liquid Rooms
Tuesday 11th October 2011 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Wednesday 12th October 2011 – London XOYO
Thursday 13th October 2011 – Brighton Jam
Friday 14th October 2011 – Manchester Deaf Institute


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