Almost exactly three years to the day their last record was made available, the Scottish trio We Were Promised Jetpacks release their fifth studio album, Enjoy the View. Conceived, written, and recorded just as things began shutting down due to the pandemic, the new record is a collection of ten beautifully produced, mostly upbeat songs that fall largely into the indie rock genre with a couple of curveballs included wherein the lads take a swing at R&B and funk with surprisingly successful results.
Enjoy the View’s swaying slow jam, “Not Me Anymore”, is an absolute anomaly amongst every song that follows, but it’s so damn good, it’s impossible to find fault with its inclusion. And while the decision to put We Were Promised Jetpacks’ soulful take on sexy R&B at the front of this record may seem odd, placing the track anywhere else in the album’s song sequence would have lessened its effect and made its involvement awkward and contrived. Instead, the song works wondrously as an opener, with singer/guitarist Adam Thompson delivering every line in a gorgeous falsetto that masks his Edinburgh brogue.
The record’s excellent second single, “Fat Chance”, which dropped two months ago in advance of the album’s release, follows “Not Me Anymore”, and every element fans have come to expect from the band that had been missing during Enjoy the View’s unexpected outset is henceforth set into motion. “I’ll calculate the odds, they aren’t in my favor, so I’ll carry on like this, and I can make amends later,” Thompson sings during the song’s pre-chorus. The lyrics are cleverly kept ambiguous enough so as to be applied to almost any lost opportunity, but they’re clearly about unrequited love. The moody “All That Glittered” has WWPJ’s rhythm section featured prominently with Sean Smith and Darren Lackie’s reverb-soaked bass and percussion creating a moment reminiscent of something from Interpol’s earliest work.
If there’s anything to complain about, it would be Enjoy the View’s lyrics which are sometimes cliché, predictable, and whiny. In no place is this more evident than during the painfully self-deprecating “What I Know Now”. Lines like, “For the record I had given up, decided I’m not good enough” and “I don’t think you believed in me, ‘cause I could not believe in you” come across as hackneyed and cloyingly obsequious. When combined with the song’s limp groove, the boys come dangerously close to sounding like Coldplay at their syrupy, wistful worst.
Things brighten during “I Wish You Well”, a standout moment that occurs during the record’s second half. The composition’s dynamic changes are consistently engaging, and the song’s tense build toward a soaring chorus creates a singalong moment that will surely be a crowd pleaser when the band play it live. “Blood, Sweat, Tears” find We Were Promised Jetpacks putting a funky spin on their sound during the verses. The moment makes for a nice backend changeup that pulls things into an upward trajectory just before the speedy “Nothing Ever Changes” wherein Thompson’s guitar tone is kept appropriately jagged until he pulls out a fine solo midway through.
Enjoy the View is concluded with the awkwardly dreamy “Just Don’t Think About It”. For five straight minutes, as the song’s title is repeated over a gently plucked, hypnotic lead, Thompson alternately answers the call and response moment with the words, “maybe I will” and “maybe I won’t”. The song doesn’t make for a particularly memorable ending and seems more likely to put the listener to sleep than encourage them to want to experience the record again from the beginning.
Regardless of its faults, the musicianship and production throughout Enjoy the View is undeniably decent. And while seasoned listeners may take umbrage with the record’s simplistic lyrics, indie rock dilettantes and hardcore WWPJ fans will most likely be able to either forgive or overlook the album’s lack of poetic depth. Overall, Enjoy the View’s strongest moments are frequent enough to eclipse most of its missteps.