Two years ago, We Were Promised Jetpacks debuted with an insistence that repeatedly built to the epic. That album, These Four Walls, was a promising start, with its energy and pulse pushing the music into more successful art than its youthful approach to grandeur would have been expected to. The follow-up album In the Pit of the Stomach shows the band to be maturing without losing energy and developing their sound without overcomplicating it.
In closing the disc, “Pear Tree” reveals the band’s progression. The essentials are still there: the Scottish indie rock still relies on its driving rhythm section and still builds into its anthemic moments. WWPJ gives us more structure to the song, and playing more with dynamics (rather than simply following a loud-equals-important aesthetic) allows the song to be more fluid. That fluidity, in turns, aids the increased use of texture on this album.
Some of the texture comes from the production, such as moving the vocals in and out, but most of it comes simply from the playing. The guitar work here doesn’t stray far from its post-punk roots, but it does work to build more of an atmosphere, varying its jagged lines into more of a wash at times. A track that completely unfurls, like “Boy in the Backseat,” gains more from exploding within a more structured album, rather than being just another build-to-crescendo track.
While the band’s improving its sound and adding nuance within its scope, it needs to watch the line between a consistent aesthetic and a repetitive album. In the Pit of the Stomach provides enough excitement that it’s not quite a problem here, but the songs do offer a similarity that might be a little more than simple coherence. Ultimately though, WWPJ plays well enough right now that they make it work. They know their sound and they stick to it.
In that sense, it feels like the band has fully realized its sound on just its second album, but they still have plenty of space to explore. “Act on Impulse” toys with expectations. It grows patiently, but resists a full release at the first expected peak. The groove and restraint are satisfying enough that the heightened urgency in the song’s final quarter is a little excessive. More intriguing, the early part of the song suggests the sort of explorations the band could make within tighter limits, creating more effective music with an expanded palette in a decreased space. We Were Promised Jetpacks may have found their style for now, but this album still hints that nothing’s settled yet.