We Are Scientists - 'With Love and Squalor'
Hailing from New York? Check. Slightly rugged look? Check. Wave of indie-pop to ride on? Double-check. Alarm bells are already ringing; question is, is this just another identikit band or something special?
Well, my preconceptions were certainly put on hold by album opener and lead single 'Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt'. Complete with an irresistibly infectious chorus, a danceable beat, melodic guitars and Libertine-esque 'wo-oh's', this is at least as catchy as anything The Killers have ever written. If I know my mainstream, this will be all over the radios and charts pretty soon.
Unfortunately, this is where the album peaks. Sure, some of the songs stand out more than others. 'Inaction' gives a good account of itself, starting with a powerful Strokes-style bass line and boasting an excellent chorus. 'The Great Escape' starts well, but is severely let down by its deflated, dull chorus. But, you see, 'We Are Scientists' really should have been called 'We Are Mathematicians' - they've perceptively worked out the indie-pop formula and applied it to every track on the album. Second track 'This Scene is Dead', although mildly catchy with its edgy, poppy guitars, is disappointingly similar to the first and displays an unsettling lack of originality. And this pattern is repeated throughout the entire CD. It's a hit' certainly isn't, 'Worth the Wait' certainly wasn't and 'Textbook' certainly is. What's more, the lyrics need some serious work. On 'Can't lose', singer Keith Murray declares, "the party's all right I might wanna stop drinking, what were we talking about?" Inspirational stuff . . .
Aside from the lyrics, there's nothing essentially bad about this album; certainly the majority of the songs boast the sort of high-flying super-radio-friendly chorus so beloved by the indie bands of today. The problem is, with acts like The Killers, The Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand churning out hit single after hit single, there is very little incentive to re-invent genres or experiment in any way and bands like 'We Are Scientists' seem content to fit into this success-made-easy niche. Crucially, 'We Are Scientists' don't have the songs of some of these established acts and they may find the competition a little too fierce.
This is not to say that success won't come for the trio. Their sound is very much in demand, and, as long as it remains so, they should do fine in the short term. Having seen them live at this year's Carling Weekend I can also testify that they sound a lot better in person. Yet, to achieve longevity, they are going to have to seriously diversify and find themselves a more unique sound. I would like to see this happen, because if there is one thing that aforementioned single 'Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt' shows it's that 'We Are Scientists' do know how to write a good song. Now all they have to do is write a song that is truly their own.