And so it goes on, in the interests of not praising each song individually, it should suffice to say that everything you’ve ever loved about We Were Promised Jetpacks, the spidery guitar lines, the foundational, unshakeable rhythm section, the heavily-accented paeans to the struggles of everyday life, are here in abundance. The added flourishes are what really make this record though. From the eerie piano of ‘Disconnected’, which gives way to a truly wonderful ending, through to the Bends-esque squall of ‘Bright Minds’, the stadium-ready chorus of the pulsing ‘Rolling’ and the Killers-esque vocal cues of sure-to-be future single ‘Moral Compass’, Unravelling gives the sense of a band stretching the scope of what being in its own skin can be.
Special mention must go to ‘Tension’, with inspired time signature changes pushing and pulling against one another, and the kind of crescendo that makes the hairs on the back of the neck stand firmly to attention.
A beautiful mix allows the elements of each of the tracks to truly breathe and settle in their own spaces. The temptation to make this album dense and claustrophobic must have been there, but one sign of the increasing maturity of We Were Promised Jetpacks is that Unravelling feels both like a menacing post-rock effort and an accessible collection of hook-laden songs. This is no mean feat. And if there’s a better rhythm section in British rock I’ve yet to hear them. I shan’t make the mistake of missing another instalment in their journey.
(Drowned In Sound)
Early highlight “Peaks and Troughs” starts with a low-key riff and Thompson’s subdued croon before the band unleash the wall-of-sound guitars. Just when you think they’ll lead into one of those powerful, emotional moments, the big guitars pivot and cut back to the original, restrained riff, paired again with Thompson’s quiet vocals.
Tonally, the pianos are key to giving the tracks a sense of balance. In almost every song (with the exception of the ominous “Night Terror” and “Disconnecting”), McGachan’s keys lend a fleeting glimmer of optimism to an otherwise dark mood. The album follows a narrative (or at least emotional) arc; the first three-quarters represent the “unravelling,” which refers to problems like sobriety (“Peaks and Troughs”), loneliness (“I Keep It Composed”), and forgiveness (“Peace Sign”). But the last few songs make sure that the album doesn’t cast a pall of total doom and gloom. The instrumental penultimate track, “Peace of Mind”, shows hope shining through like the dawn of a new day, almost U2-like in its grandness. Triumphant strings, crashing cymbals, and upbeat keys all converge to create a sense of genuine warmth.
Not every experiment completely pays off; the discordant slow burner “Disconnecting” features Thompson scream-talking in a near falsetto. But We Were Promised Jetpacks have taken risks and made a challenging record. It’d be easy for them to rest on their laurels and stick to what they know they do well. Unravelling deals with lives falling apart, but with the addition of McGachan, We Were Promised Jetpacks come together as a cohesive force.
(Consequence Of Sound)