We Were Promised Jetpacks - The More I Sleep The Less I Dream

by Howard Scott Rating:9 Release Date:2018-09-14
We Were Promised Jetpacks - The More I Sleep The Less I Dream
We Were Promised Jetpacks - The More I Sleep The Less I Dream

It is pretty unusual for four guys who started a rock band in high school to still be together and producing good recorded music fifteen years later, but that is the current state of Scotland-based We Were Promised Jetpacks. The album demonstrates what nearly half a lifetime together and over a decade of touring leads to: refined songwriting, highly proficient musicianship, and production values that only come with seniority.

The band has said that this recording is a “back-to-our-roots” exercise, and I’m sure that was a goal. Their previous three LPs, however, have each shown a very real maturation of their sound, and to my ears, “The More I Sleep, The Less I Dream” continues this pattern of growth.

“Impossible” leads off the disc and is notable due to the manic drumming of Darren Lackie.  (Actually, Lackie’s high energy skin pounding is a near constant on the entire recording.) A two-minute instrumental pulls the curtain back before the guitars get cracking to create a formidable wall of sound. The first half of the tune, vocalist Adam Thompson’s voice combines well with the instrumentation. Once everything gets cranked up, however, he tends to get a bit lost in the mix. It sounds like the band is playing in the studio and Thompson is in another room. It’s  too bad, because the lyrics are worth listening to, and the singer’s Scottish brogue gives the band a fair amount of their identity. Words like slide and hide tend to come out sounding like “slade” and “hade”, and it gives the music a very endearing quality.   Happily, this seems to only be an issue on one or two cuts, and then not even for the entire song, so maybe it was a production decision.

The guitar work of Thompson and Michael Palmer illuminate “In Light” and create an upbeat melody that sets a much different mood from the opener. The talents of all four members really glow here and show a degree of songwriting experience that is only hard-earned.

Bassist Sean Smith sets down  a funky groove on “Someone Else’s Problem” with more high strung guitar work by Thompson and Palmer and fast paced drumming, yet again. I actually found myself worrying about the long term health of Lackie while listening. Hopefully he won't end up in the Max Weinberg wing of the wrist and arm reconstruction clinic!

“Make It Easier” begins with the wall of sound being erected again, but then recedes to a quieter demeanor that allows Thompson to showcase his range and vocal strength. There are no problems hearing him on this track.

The strongest melody on the recording has also been released as the first offering to the world. “Hanging In” uses ascending and descending scales on the fretboards to give the listener a roller coaster ride of sound while Thompson’s brogue once again grabs full attention. This is an impressive offering by four guys who know how to make non-disposable music that will stick in the listener’s head. It is just full on ear candy.

A  relatively short instrumental “Improbable” creates a kind of intermission for the second half of the LP, which then follows with “When I Know More”. This song loses some of the busier production of the earlier cuts and comes across as just a satisfying piece of music that contains a more traditional rock feel.

This feel continues on “Not Wanted”, which slows things down considerably and contains a chorus of guitar work that is heavenly to absorb.

This all goes out the window and onto the curb on “Repeating Patterns”. The pace of this tune can only be described as manic, with Lackie again leading the stringed instruments into a maelstrom of sound distortion that creates a very real tension in the listener. Thompson tests the upper ranges of his vocal chords to add to the panic and hurried speed. This tune is impossible to ignore and may even raise your blood pressure a point or two!

From there we launch into the title song from the album, and “The More I Sleep, The Less I Dream” takes us into another variance of sound from previous anthems. This one is a dark, soulful, really mournful compilation that accents Smith’s bass plucking and the always present beat. The lyrics don’t add any degree of cheer to the black feel of the mood. “Oh my word /I’m nothin but a curse” wails Thompson, and before long, we are inclined to regretfully mourn with him!

The amalgamation of the sorrowful music with the painful and plaintive singing creates a teardrop inducing mood as a finale. I loved the song, but it does poke at the psyche a little. It probably was designed to.

The lyrics on the album are well-composed and thoughtful, but there is a high degree of angst and despair going on. Besides singing of being a curse, we also hear Thompson croon of sticking his finger in his eye, being sick to his back teeth, wanting to see the garden where he will sleep,  being someone else’s problem etc. etc. Not exactly “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” but then, who really wants ten cuts of that?!

In older interviews the band tended to blame this attribute on where they are from. Let’s face it, Scotland is beautiful, but it is also cold most of the time, rainy most of the time, and not populated by people who are known for being overly joyful. I guess centuries of trying to avoid being disemboweled by the Romans, the English or whoever else showed up to take over would tend to color one’s outlook, so maybe this is just an example of the environment creating a certain frame of mind. WWPJ wouldn't be the first artists to find that the pit of despair can also be fertile ground for great songwriting.

Just cheer up a little, guys! When it is time to compose next, head to Miami Beach for awhile! I hear they even have jetpacks you can ride over the water!

“The More I Sleep, The Less I Dream” isn’t an album you can hear  once and fully appreciate. There is a lot going on here, and numerous visits reveal a bit more with each listen. It is worth the time taken to peal back the layers and fully comprehend the masterful effort and expertise put forth.

 

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars
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