Album review: 'The More I Sleep, The Less I Dream' - We Were Promised Jetpacks
We Were Promised Jetpacks return after four years with their most instinctive and mature work yet in the masterfully layered 'The More I Sleep, The Less I Dream'
Scottish indie rockers We Were Promised Jetpacks are out with their fourth studio album, 'The More I Sleep, The Less I Dream' on Friday. It's not often that we get to see a high school band endure for 15 years, but WWP Jetpacks have done just that, displaying a steady maturing approach through the years, with three studio albums and six EPs down the lane.
'The More I Sleep...' arrives a full four years after their previous record 'Unravelling', and a lot has changed since then. Guitarist Michael Palmer recently said that in the new album, the band was "going back to our basics and relying on our instincts". After touring with 'Unravelling', they went back to Scotland to take a much-needed breather. A decision was made that there would be no more touring until a new album was ironed out, a rare call for a band that is extensively on the road.
They returned to their original four-member lineup, separating with multi-instrumentalist Stuart Michael McGachan, as they tried to get back to the basics. Somewhere down the line, Jetpacks realized that their approach to new material was all wrong and decided to drop all premeditated song structures to let the instinct drive the sound. They almost scrapped an entire album worth of tracks and started again from scratch. "If we're not going to be playing stuff that we really love, then do we really want to do this?" reflected frontman Adam Thompson in a recent interview with Meaww.
The attitude clearly shows on the new album. The opening track 'Impossible' kicks off with a steady thumping drum beat courtesy of Darren Lackie, underlined by fuzzy guitars which set the mood for the first two minutes before Thompson's vocals gently ease into the soundscape. The track gently swells until it erupts into a brief cathartic burst as Thompson sings about the pains of separation. It's an immediate sign of a band that is more sure-footed than ever, and the approach extends into the other nine tracks.
Highlights from the album include the lead single 'Hanging In', which showcases some of Jetpacks' tightest work so far, as they employ the use of contrasting progressions and subtle pauses to set the predominant tone of the album - a roller coaster ride that jams powerful, inspirational rock structures with equally melancholic, dark lyricism.
It's a heady listening experience that is showcased time and time again in album cuts 'When I Know More' and 'Not Wanted'. While Michael Palmer and Thompson's complementary guitar work shines forth on the post-punk anthem 'In Light', Sean Smith's funky bassline makes 'Someone Else's Problem' a foot-tapping groove.
'The More I Sleep, The Less I Dream' is an album that sounds effortlessly cohesive, with each track gracefully paving way for the next. The album closes with two of the finest cuts. 'Repeating Patterns' is a blazing track at a near-manic pace and ripping guitar work with the lyricism touching on themes of existential angst and despair. The title track is curiously positioned at the very end, which Thompson revealed was the first of the fresh tracks that set the album on course, but was the last to be dubbed. It's a rare thing to see a record close with the title track, but it totally works on the album, as it summarizes all the sonic and lyrical themes covered in the album across its five-and-a-half-minute spin.
"One of the last things we had to decide was whether 'Repeating Patterns' was to go third or ninth," Thompson revealed to Meaww when asked about the choice to put the two tracks towards the end of the album. But the choice was ultimately made to place it just before closing the album with the title track as the two tracks complement the intensity of sound perfectly. It's a choice that works well in the Jetpacks' favor.
We Were Promised Jetpacks teamed up with producer Jonathan Low ('The War on Drugs', 'Sufjan Stevens', 'The National') for the recording process, and the sparse production allows the indie quartet to bring the intensity of their live gigs to the 10 tracks, while adding some slick sheen to it all.
While the album is fully capable of sucking you in on the very first listen with plenty of earworms buried into the song structures, it definitely isn't one that can be fully appreciated on the first go. There are a lot of intricacies woven in, especially between the clean and distorted guitar works and in the deliberate tempo shifts. The lyrics also hold a lot of depth and reveal themselves over multiple listens. If you were to sit back with a pair of hi-def headphones and dive deeper into the masterfully laid layers, you will not be disappointed.
Apple Music subscribers can check it out here. Spotify users can stream the full album below.