Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Scotland Uber Alles

Human Error - We Were Promised Jetpacks (mp3)
Conductor - We Were Promised Jetpacks (mp3)

God I wish I were in Scotland.

My father-in-law hops the pond and lives over there four months out of every year, and the jealousy practically seethes through my skin when he visits us. My Scottish blood wants to push out of my body and attack him like a Scottish badger.

If I were in Scotland, I could wear a kilt. I could slice the throat of any Englishman who mutters the words “Prima Nocta.” I could sit at some sophisticated pub drinking dark delicious slightly warmish beer across from Tilda Swinton and talk about how totally kickass she was. I'm sure she'd totally dig me.

But what I could really do while wearing a kilt and killing Englishmen and drinking and wooing kickass actresses? Tilda and I could be in any music club in the friggin’ country, and odds are there’d be some mega-awesome rock band playing. Scotland has arguably the best collection of rock bands ever to hail from a single teensy country.

Scotland has 5.2 million people. Which is to say, it’s the population of Atlanta... with lots and lots of rocks.

I have at one point or another owned records, cassettes, CDs or mp3 albums of the following Scottish artists: Frightened Rabbit. We Were Promised Jetpacks. Belle & Sebastian. Big Country. The Jesus & Mary Chain. Primal Scream. The Shamen. Simple Minds. Teenage Fanclub. Travis. Texas. Glasvegas. 1990s. Cocteau Twins. The Soup Dragons. The Twilight Sad. Snow Patrol.

To be fair, Scotland is also home to Franz Ferdinand, which goes down in my own history as the most overrated indie band in the last 30 years. But hell, no place with 5 million people can be perfect.

By comparison, Atlanta has given me The Marvelous 3, Indigo Girls, The Black Crowes and maybe Sugarland. I’ll even throw in Cee-lo Green just for the sake of amusement. I’ll be forever grateful for Amy and Emily, one of my all-time favorites no doubt, but the collective army of Scot-Rock tops ‘em and their Atlanta minions handily.

The Onion’s AV Club has a much more erudite breakdown of Scot-Rock, but I happen to think mine is more convincing. Because I make bad kilt jokes.

Anyway, the latest holy musical selection emerging from the crags is In the Pit of the Stomach, the sophomore release from We Were Promised Jetpacks. I’m pretty sure I remember one of our regular commentators -- was it BeckEye or Cinderkeys? -- proclaiming it the best band name of the 21st Century, and dammit it’s gotta be somewhere near the top. Their song “Quiet Little Voices,” off their first album, was easily one of my favorite songs from 2009.

This band is crunchy and sonically explosive and mumbly, and this album definitely kicks those qualities into a higher gear than their first go-round. I’d suspect this has to do with being able to afford better recording equipment or an adrenaline junkie for their producer, but I only know slightly more about music production than I do about Scotland.

I was never a big fan of the Shoegaze Movement in rock, but this band leapfrogs that with their noise. It’s noise with a hook. It’s noise with a hook that gives me this flutter of hope and happiness in my core, and I couldn’t tell you whether that’s the intent of their lyrical direction. Plenty of dark lyrics in these songs to be sure, but something there feels good, feels alive, feels vibrant. Shoegazing never made me very happy. It just pissed me off.

We Were Promised Jetpacks' first album was good. This one is better. If they can stick to alcohol and avoid too many other spoils of success -- other than kilts -- this band should be around and kicking Britpop’s ass for at least a few more albums.


Daisy said...

Would you wear tights under the kilt? Scottish pubs can be drafty.

Bob said...

Perhaps your dad-in-law could secure us a fresh can o' haggis.

Billy said...

@Daisy - I'm pretty sure the draft is why they drink so much. Alcohol warms the cockleburs... or something like that.

@Bob - Is there such a thing as fresh haggis?