Sometimes a band’s name matches its music perfectly. Other times there is a dissonance created between nomenclature and art that could even sap some of the music’s impact. Imagine if Black Sabbath had decided to call itself A Flock of Seagulls, or vice versa; the disconnect between name and music would be so cavernous as to possibly consume the band entirely.
Teetering on the edge of this abyss is Scottish band We Were Promised Jetpacks. Their name, though quite clever, indicates that they might traffic in the nerd rock of They Might Be Giants or the hipster pop of Phantom Planet. When the earnest voice of Adam Thompson first cuts through the thin veneer of dissonance that blankets nearly every song on These Four Walls, it is almost disorienting. Instead of word play or emoting, We Were Promised Jetpacks throws down old-school alternative pop music, unabashedly channeling nearly every band to appear on 120 Minutes and establishing an important foothold against irony as currency in pop music.
These Four Walls is strong throughout, but the band is smart enough to make a strong first impression. The album’s debut track, “Thunder and Lightning,” builds to a crescendo of Thompson repeating the title while building a sense of urgency. This isn’t the most lyrically complex way to build interest, but Thompson makes good use of his vocals. We Were Promised Jetpacks doesn’t allow for much of an exit strategy after the first number; the songs move nicely from loud to quiet and work in everything from snippets of ambient noise to piano lines to add flair to band’s basic lineup of bass, drums, and guitars.
These Four Walls retains its charm, even when Thompson goes to the well perhaps one too many times with the line repetition trick. Given the band’s relative youth and the source material they’re invoking, this is a forgivable sin. We Were Promised Jetpacks aren’t forging undiscovered country in rock music, but they make a pretty convincing argument that archaeology can sometimes lead to compelling art, cryptic name or not.