Artist: We Are Scientists
Album: Helter Seltzer
Label: 100% Records
Release Date: April 22nd, 2016
At first I thought the title of We Are Scientists’ new album Helter Seltzer was a Beatles reference. Turns out I was right. The title is an amalgam for the Beatles’ 1968 release Helter Skelter and the pain reliever Alka-Seltzer.
Helter Seltzer starts off with the uplifting “Buckle”, most likely the record’s best track. This chugging, aggressive opener combines relentless drums, dynamic shifts, and a likable, sloping melodic hook to give the listener high expectations for the album. But it doesn’t take long after the first track to realize that maybe the music (as well as the fun) has already peaked.
Let’s take “Too Late” for example – the repetitive, clap-along ode to perseverance, boasting lyrics that much sooner belong on a cheesy motivational poster than on a self-proclaimed ‘fun’ album (chorus: “Don’t stop now – it’s never too late, never too late, never too late ” x4). If that wasn’t enough unexpected advice, the next track (the busy, chant-y “Hold On”) spells out the same message in the title itself. Sure, it’s a little catchy, just like the song before it, but it too suffers from a serious lack of lyrical depth (chorus: “And if something’s wrong, hold on”).
Helter Seltzer, while mostly upbeat, isn’t without its deep and slower moments. Acoustic-guitar-driven “Want For Nothing” takes things in a surprisingly tender direction towards the middle of the album. Diving a bit further under the skin, this gratifying ballad makes up for its jumbled lyrics with a charming amount of sentiment. “Waiting For You” is yet another hearfelt track on the album, full of mushy, Secondhand-Serenade-like guitar riffs.
A recurring trend I noticed among most of the songs on Helter Seltzer was that We Are Scientists often relied heavily on one individual instrument to carry them through. Whether it’s the over-arching, buzz-saw synthesizer featured on “In My Head” or the arpeggiating, bass-y electronic texture running amok through “Too Late”, good chops (guitar riffs, strong drum beats, etc.) seem less important than they would if the overall instrumental cooperation was more cohesive. And on an even worse note, that formula starts to become pretty monotonous to the listener.
I’m not going out on a limb when I say We Are Scientists aren’t for everyone. Take the “Buckle” music video for example, where one frontman throws food (and smashes bottles) at his fellow band member’s face for a few minutes. The YouTube comment section found the video pretty funny, whereas I didn’t in the least. If the music video makes you chuckle, then maybe you’ll find some humor and fun in Helter Seltzer that I wasn’t able to pick up on. Musically, though, I couldn’t shake the feeling that each song lacked its own identity. With recycled, often witless lyrics and a formulaic reliance on loud synths in an attempt to make up for unoriginality, I ended up wishing these Scientists did a little more experimenting.
Album review by John Reimer.
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