We Were Promised Jetpacks’ second album, In The Pit Of The Stomach, continues in the grand tradition of UK rockers following up sensational debut LPs with similar-sounding albums, only darker and louder. In 2009, These Four Walls propelled the band to the head of an already bright young class of Scottish acts, with its swift tempos, big guitar sound, and Adam Thompson’s attempts to record his impressions of life as it rushes by. In The Pit Of The Stomach opens with “Circles And Squares,” which from its lyrics about the patterns people follow to its dynamic sound—marked by cymbal-heavy clatter and rapid strumming—declares that We Were Promised Jetpacks isn’t planning any radical departures. “Circles And Squares” also reveals what two years of touring has done for the band. It’s not just that the songs on In The Pit Of The Stomach are tighter than the ones on These Four Walls, it’s that they now seem engineered to pin concertgoers to the back of the club.
Sure, the thrill of discovery is missing; in ’09, We Were Promised Jetpacks’ amped-up version of the already-mammoth early-’80s guitar-rock of U2 and Big Country was a welcome surprise, while now, it’s what’s expected. But Thompson and company do play more with rumbly atmospherics—sometimes to good effect, as on the forlorn-yet-speedy “Act On Impulse,” and sometimes indistinctly, as on the pretty-but-listless “Sore Thumb.” And the overall emphasis on brute force gives In The Pit Of The Stomach a hard kick early and an even-harder shove late, once We Were Promised Jetpacks gets to the devastating double-time ragers “Boy In The Backseat” and “Human Error.” These two songs plus the resounding “Pear Tree” end the album with impressive bluster, and stirring reminders about the power of the individual: to screw up, to fight on, to howl into the night.