Unravel to ‘Unravelling’
Caelin Miltko | Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Fall break is coming.
There is a frenzy in the air as we dart around, taking tests, writing essays and wondering how — or if — we, never mind our GPAs, are going to make it through this week alive. As students, we look forward to the game on Saturday and then to a week of relaxation, where we can — hopefully — sleep and forget about whatever craziness has been consuming us.
Scottish indie-rock band We Were Promised Jetpacks embodies this upcoming feeling of relief on its new album, “Unravelling.” The album is slower than the band’s previous work. Occasionally, it seems as though the album is about to build up to the hysteria evident on the band’s previous LPs, but We Were Promised Jetpacks always bring it back down to a slower, even pace.
“Unravelling” is the third album from We Were Promised Jetpacks. After its sophomore album, “In the Pit of the Stomach,” the group added a new member — guitarist, keyboardist and pianist Stuart McGachan. His presence is evident — at times, his playing takes over the band’s traditional sound and drowns it out.
The calmness of the new work fits the title of the LP. Some of the tension evident in the band’s early works almost builds in tracks “Safety in Numbers” and “Peaks and Troughs” — coming to a high in “Night Terrors.” But by the 11th track, “Ricochet,” these remnants are gone as the band turns instead to a slower, sleepier, hypnotic sound driven by McGachan’s presence.
It’s not necessarily a bad change. The guitar riffs on the intro of “A Part of It” prove fantastic and the entirely instrumental “Peace of Mind” is an interesting, U2-esque addition to the discography.
After listening to the entirety of “Unravelling,” I felt the need to go back to the band’s first offering, “These Four Walls,” to remind myself of its original sound. I wasn’t sure I was listening to the same band.
Older songs like “Quiet Little Voices” and “It’s Thunder and It’s Lightning” lift you up to the band’s energy level — you want to move; you want to sing, and you want to be right in that moment. “Unravelling” is more reflective — allowing you to take a step back and rest for moment.
That’s not to say the dance-vibes aren’t present on this new album. “I Keep It Composed” is particularly strong in this way, relying on the backbeats of earlier work over the sounds McGachan’s talent adds to the band. But that’s not what the album is about. It’s not what We Were Promised Jetpacks is building to, and it’s certainly not where the band leaves you — my biggest criticism of the album.
There were points when I was happy and impressed. The beginning of the album was especially strong, dealing with conflicted emotions through both lyrics and sound, but by the end, the sound lost all remnants of this conflict and settled on a slow, moving pace. It was a bit of a bummer to end on.
A lot of what changed in the new album can be attributed to the addition of the band’s new, undoubtedly talented member — and it’s an adjustment I can make. It showcases a change in the We Were Promised Jetpacks sound, but I hope it’s a little like fall break — just a bit of rest before we dive back into the frenzy, even if it is of a different sort.