We Are Scientists: Helter Seltzer

We Are Scientists: Helter SeltzerAlbum review by Ian Gittins | Rating: ★★☆☆☆

22/04/2016

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Five albums and more than 15 years into the band's career, We Are Scientists main man Keith Murray recently took to pondering what genre the band lie within.

"We're not punk – we're too interested in making our songs as pretty as possible," he mused. "We're not straight-up rock – our tastes are too left-of-centre. We're not indie-rock – our heads aren't far enough up our own butts… so we decided our genre is Helter Seltzer."

It's a pity that the Brooklyn duo's singer and guitarist didn't also consider the possibility that the band play geek-rock. Far from being a categorical reinvention, Helter Seltzer consists of the same needling, semi-wacky, self-deprecating nerd-pop that has largely defined their output from the off.

Spindly, jittery and wildly gurning, We Are Scientists invariably seem to have trouble taking themselves seriously, and so it is hard for anybody else to do the same. Twitchy opening track and single Buckle could be Faith No More playing it for laughs. Its would-be air of menace is paper-thin.

Zayn: Mind Of Mine

The thin, anxious Helter Seltzer is an album that never gets out of second gear. A clatter of shrill guitar and hesitant percussion, it sounds consumed by self-doubt. Want For Nothing or Classic Love could only conceivably appeal to people – whoever they may be – who feel that Weezer possessed too much gravitas.

The problem is that We Are Scientists are never remotely more than the sum of their parts. Often, they are considerably less. Too Late is suffused with a hazy glow but goes nowhere much: Waiting For You has a neat lyric – "Are you waiting for the rest of your life?" – but nothing else.

It's a flippant, facetious record that has you waiting for witty punchlines that never arrive. The best track – and the bar is set pretty low – is the straightforward ramma-lamma power-pop of Headlights. Like the vast majority of We Are Scientists' career, ultimately Helter Seltzer is simply a bit meh.

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