Thursday, 22 September 2011

reviews: we were promised jetpacks, the shivers, farewell poetry

We Were Promised Jetpacks - In the Pit of the Stomach

We Were Promised Jetpacks - In the Pit of the Stomach (****)

If you name your second album In The Pit Of The Stomach, anything less than gut-punching is going to disappoint. Opener Circles And Squares is a long way from disappointing: gargantuan riffs clamour over Adam Thompson’s distinctive bellows, before a boldly-conducted coda pushes the track into ‘personal best’ territory.

It’s a gutsy rebuttal to the whole concept of ‘Difficult Second Album Syndrome’ – the first of several confident strides forward for the Edinburgh quartet. Recorded in Sigur Rós’ Icelandic studio, We Were Promised Jetpacks don’t evoke ‘glaciers’ so much as ‘massive fuck-off rock capable of tearing the surrounding landscape a new one’: lead single Medicine and Human Error are burly and bold, repeatedly nudging your hand to towards the volume dial. It’s not quite perfect – a little spark dissipates whenever they take the foot off the pedal – but on those (numerous) occasions where the band locks in and nails it, the Jetpacks truly soar.

Out 3rd October

The Shivers - More

The Shivers - More (****)

Somehow, it’s taken five self-released albums for someone in the UK to prick up their ears and sign New York’s The Shivers. Johnny Lynch (aka The Pictish Trail, aka Fence’s high heid yin) is the good soul responsible for terminating the stalemate, and this sixth full-length is a perfect profile-raiser that should have newcomers raiding the preceding pentad hungrily.

Perhaps the duo aren’t strikingly original – the title track is Stripped Stones, while The Strokes are a frequent influence on the faster numbers – but they more than make up for any moments of déjà vu by being rather good at it all. Beneath nicely-judged orchestral embellishments, Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars carries faint flickers of Devendra Banhart (if disarming simplicity replaced whimsy as his lyrical stock in trade), while Used To Be adds a zesty synth line to the palette, adding up to a rather fine UK entrée.

Out 26th September

Farewell Poetry - Hoping for the Invisible to Ignite

Farewell Poetry - Hoping for the Invisible to Ignite (***)

Oh Farewell Poetry, shall I compare thee to a Godspeed echo? Well, yes – you make it pretty difficult not to, with your serious atmosphere and evocative spoken-word bits: thou art majestic, beautiful and, it must be said, more than a little bit familiar. But this French/English collective are no schmucks: they understand the dynamic intimately (it’s all about contrast, don’t you know), and, when pitched just right, no other aesthetic sets off shivers quite so effectively.

While the obvious checkpoints keep coming – from the typically po-faced name to their use of experimental film online and live – both musical and poetic elements are well-judged, with crescendos in all the right places and turns of phrase like “and the millions suck at my bowels like mice” eliciting unfamiliar emotion. Consequently, Hoping For the Invisible to Ignite gets under the listener’s skin; if not in shards, then certainly in slithers.

Out 26th September

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