"We Were Promised Jetpacks" is one of those names that can lure people out just to see what a band sounds like. Listing their ilk might make for a fun drinking game, especially if you rule out ska bands. Everyone knows God Speed You! Black Emperor, e.g., but you might win with Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin.
Of course, it's folly to expect such names to have anything to do with the band's music. But it was still disappointing to find that WWPJ guitarist Michael Palmer wasn't up for a discussion about the failure of the world to produce jetpacks, and whether hoverboards, a current actual possibility, might serve as well.
Or, maybe he was up for a discussion and we just couldn't tell because we were so bowled over by his impenetrably charming brogue. It was a bracing reminder that English is several different languages. Ponder that as you will, confident that rock music is the indisputably universal one.
WWPJ is a noisy, crazy-competent powerhouse with a tuneful maelstrom of references. They are in love with playing in a band, with its audiences, with everything about performing and with two or three decades of indie rock music. As for their name? Meh. Palmer says, thickly, "It was just on the list with a bunch of other ones that were really ugly."
With all their energy, it's not surprising that the word "anthemic" is often used to describe the band's music. Palmer thinks that's fair, but the band collectively winces at "epic". And while their lyrics can be "brooding," another popular adjective, "We prefer the word 'edgy'" he says, laughing. And, maybe it is, but not to the extent "edgy" implies "avant garde" because they really aren't that, either.
Palmer says the band also favors the frequent comparisons to headliners they've opened for.
"We've done a couple of support shows with Jimmy Eat World for European tours and Death Cab for Cutie. We did one show with Explosions in the Sky, which was a career high," he says.
It's also not too far of a stretch to throw in The Decemberists, Flaming Lips, Belle & Sebastian, My Morning Jacket, a few bars of U2, Tortoise, Mountain Goats, label-mates Frightened Rabbit and several of The Elephant 6 ... as performed by the Dropkick Murphys.
WWPJ comes by its eclectic mix naturally. Band members grew up together, coincidentally with the members of Frightened Rabbit, around Edinburgh. It's a cultural hub, which annually hosts a three-week festival of the arts, including a rock fest featuring emerging and cutting-edge bands from around the world.
"We don't listen to folk music," Palmer says. Although "Short Bursts," from the live album, E Rey, dedicated to their roadie, gives a hint of their homeland's terroir.
For Palmer, he's looking to the future of music from that rich environment, of which he suggests Men of the Moon and Pronto Mama.
"(They) haven't even recorded albums, yet. They've just done like a couple EPs and they're pretty special," he says.
WWPJ turned to Paul Savage to produce the band's current album, Unraveled. It was a neat fit with Savage's ongoing work with Teenage Fanclub, Franz Ferdinand and Mogwai. The results are smooth without being slick, offering a clean presentation of the band's addictive brand of indie—who-and-whatever you think it sounds like.