We are Scientists have always been an intriguing prospect, a sincere band that don’t take themselves at all seriously, a rock band that embraces the use of modern technology more often seen in pop songs. A 2-piece band that is one-minute underground indie rock the next minute a folk band. A 2 piece that would be 3 if it wasn’t for their Spinal Tap drummer history. When they blasted onto the scene in 2006 with With Love And Squalor it appeared it was another two piece guitar band ala White Stripes entering the rock/indie crossover scene, since then the musical journey of duo Keith Murray and Chris Cain has seen them take in elements of rock, folk and pop. If you are the sort of reader who likes their rock, metal, then We Are Scientists are probably not for you. If, however, you like to mix up your listening with a variety of styles then I guarantee that you are going to love this album.
Helter Seltzer is the bands fifth album and the best way to describe this record is Soulful, very, very Soulful. The core of the sound is still based around the use of guitars. It is clear the tracks must start out this way and there are quite a few moments on this record that are reminiscent of the much rockier debut. But this record has a deepness, a stillness even and a sincerity way beyond what they have produced before and it makes for a great listen, a life reinforcing record
Opening track “Buckle” is probably not overly representative of the album but does show you the kinda of experimentation that We Are Scientists are prepared to do. It’s a funky, electronic driven track although in principle I could see that this track was originally written for the guitar, in its structure and style. It is with second track “In My Head” that the true soul of this record is exposed. A gentle guitar riff opens with some plaintive vocals but the drums really kick in and a 2nd guitar is added. There is much going on in this song. The second verse introducing a background 70/80’s electronic accompaniment.
“Too Late” is a trip back to 80’s pop and stands out on the album. It has vibe and sound reminiscent of A-Ha. Vocally there is more than a nod to the Killers than the 80’s though. “Hold On” is based around an almost minimalist base line before the guitars joins in for the chorus. One of the main aspects of this record is the lyrics and “Hold On” is worth listening to for this alone, thoughtful and thought provoking. This overwhelmingly feeling of nostalgia, and taking time alone to work through things continues on the excellent “We Need A Word”. This really is a unique record and hard to sum up, but if you need an example “We Need a Word” is it. Musically the guitar riff throughout is excellent and soulful in a way only a single guitar can really capture, the lyrics are introspective and the vibe is a like a warm blanket but ultimately a feeling of loneliness seeps through.
There is a range of influences on this record and one that is obvious is mid 90’s britpop. A single acoustic guitar and plaintive voice opens up “Want For Nothing”. The song slowly develops and could have been written by Oasis. “Waiting For You” on the other hand is reminiscent of Blur’s “Charmless Man”. If you are looking for something a little rockier, this is provided by “Classic Love” and “Headlights” which are both classic We Are Scientists and could easily have been in their debut record. Catchy, upbeat and a little grungier with their guitars but still maintaining that pop sensibility. Final track “Forgiveness” brings a triumphant end to the record.
So Heltzer Seltzer may not be We Are Scientists’ rockiest album, or even a rock album but it is without doubt their best album to date. The guys may be more introspective with age but this album has a character, depth and soulfulness that can’t really be constructed it comes from within. A truly excellent record well worth taking your time out to listen to even if it perhaps isn’t in your normal listening genre.
Helter Seltzer is out tomorrow, April 22nd.