Updated: Nov 24, 2021
Live music is back.
The Covid-19 pandemic paused the incomparable thrill of seeing your favorite band or artist play a live show. For the music lover and ritual concertgoer, this hiatus was hard. Artists released music but the platform for showcasing these new works existed only on our turntables or through our speakers, phones, and computers. But as vaccination rates have increased and the number of covid-related deaths has gone down, concerts and other large-scale crowd events have gradually returned. Now, we buy our tickets with a greater appreciation for the artist, for the albums, but mainly just for the opportunity to get out of our homes with friends and family and enjoy the albums we have been listening to over this past year. My first live concert this year was Circa Waves’ show at La Belle Angele in Edinburgh, and I could feel the shift. We are lifting off from covid and it feels good.
My second concert this year was We Were Promised Jetpacks. The Edinburgh native band released their third album Enjoy the View in early September, 2021. This project follows their 2018 album The More I Sleep the Less I Dream and their debut, and perhaps most famous, album These Four Walls. Released in 2009, These Four Walls made its mark with its first single, now the band’s most popular song, “Quiet Little Voices.” The album, defined by its faster guitar bursts and intense and subtly rough vocals, launched the band into the new-phase punk and indie rock realms. More than ten years later, the band still carries the intense, faster paced tendencies These Four Walls listeners know well, while welcoming some calmer indie rock undertones.
I started listening to We Were Promised Jetpacks a few years ago. The soundtrack to several long train rides, These Four Walls exposed me to a new sound: the gloomy, often angry melodies of Scottish indie rock. When I returned to Scotland this September, a re-exposure to the band felt appropriate; Enjoy the View tracks frequented my Spotify playlists. I have now seen the album live on two separate occasions, once in Edinburgh at The Caves and then later at a smaller acoustic show at Assai Records in Dundee. For those looking to explore the contemporary Scottish rock scene, this new album has much to offer.
“If It Happens”, drawing the audience in with the subtle, eerie opening. The track features the band’s signature slow build to commence the show. Lead singer and guitarist Adam Thompson noted that the band began writing this song ten years ago and finally created a version of it they all enjoyed. Therefore, making this their first live song performed since covid plays tribute to its evolution.
In the solo acoustic Dundee show, Thompson gave a heartfelt rendition of the album’s opener, “Not Me Anymore.” This slow-paced song strays a bit from We Were Promised Jetpacks’ usual habit of pushing into a fast-paced, angrier tone, and maintains its emotional and almost haunting opening sound. “Not Me Anymore” sits well with listeners and sends a clearer message of personal growth and change; the band repeats the title throughout the track and, more than most of the band’s other tracks, leaves audience members with a sense of calm and reflection.
My favorite song on the album “Don’t Hold Your Breath for Too Long” offers yet another haunting and subtle opening and leads powerfully into a piercing drum beat and guitar. The song sounds great live. The acoustics of The Caves combined with Darren Lackie’s drums makes this track a full-body experience. Similarly, “Fat Chance” gives listeners a more classic indie rock feel. The song complements Thompson’s vocals and pushes a consistently catchy melody, as I have had this one stuck in my head ever since I first heard it in Edinburgh. The album closes with “Just Don’t Think About It,” another melancholic track, leaving fans with the pensive and self-reflective outlook with which they began their listening journey.
Concerts make us emotional. Lyrics resonate with us; vocals inspire us. Dancing with friends triggers nostalgia. And, now more than ever, the post-concert adrenaline leaves us feeling grateful. But, in this mindset, it is easy to look inward and ignore what these concerts are doing for the artists themselves. The Edinburgh show was the band’s first live performance in roughly 600 days. In a brief conversation I had with Thompson, he explained how a return to the stage “feels good, feels exciting, feels right.” Enjoy the View, with its adrenaline-inducing indie rock melodies, brought these band members back to their figurative home and their literal hometown; it made for a great show. We Were Promised Jetpacks officially starts its tour in Aberdeen on the second of December and continues throughout the United States and Europe. If you are hoping to get into the Scottish indie rock scene and for a satisfying return to live music, We Were Promised Jetpacks’ on-stage rendition of Enjoy the View is certainly a good place to start.