We Are Scientists - With Love and Squalor (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

We Are Scientists

With Love and Squalor (2006)


Not so much as bothering to distance themselves from their new wave-inspired peers in the Killers and Hot Hot Heat, We Are Scientists administer the hooks in what is really a painfully obvious and predictable fashion. Like the annoying little kid from down the street that just loved to tag along when you were younger, you can hear them coming. Gleefully stampeding with no true sense of restraint, With Love and Squalor is the musical representation of that little kid.

It's uncanny how all bands of this fiber find a flamboyant, obnoxious vocalist. A vocalist that sounds like a siren when they really get going, in a very disconcerting wail, overpowering all that has the misfortune of being around it.

It's not all bad though, no, far from it actually. Under those vocals is a band brimming with post-punk intensity just waiting to explode. The rhythms are a tightly wound bundle, at any given time, primed and ready to snap, unleashing a buzzing whirlwind of distortion upon anyone listening. It's that intensity, seething at the surface, that makes the actual music so engaging. The jangly rhythms often combine with bluesy riffs to create a multi-dimensional sound that works for the band. And this is all fine and well while it's happening, but ten minutes after the album is completed, there's not much to remember.

"Textbook" is a much slower song, one of the few that does leave a distinct impression. The vocals are toned down quite a few notches, to a point where Keith Murray sounds like he's actually singing, in fact, he's singing quite well. And the instrumentation is a lot less turbulent, offering a more grounded approach that lets the vocals be at the forefront, but in a beneficial way this time, not just because they're louder than everything else is. The guitars shimmer and the drums keep a tight beat, while both Chris Cain and Michael Tapper contribute some solid backup vocals.

Before long it's back to the much more dancy aspect of the record, with "Worth the Wait" sounding like it could have easily fit in on the last Hot Hot Heat record. Not the worst thing in the world, depending on your feelings about them, but We Are Scientists definitely needs to work a bit more on fleshing out and developing their own identity. "Textbook" was a large stride in the right direction, but they need more.

I don't want to say the band is underdeveloped, maybe misguided is a better label at this stage in their career. They buzz with intensity, and are comfortable changing their sound up a bit, so once they really find themselves, this will be a band to look for.