We Are Scientists
With Love And Squalor
2006
C+



upon my first listen to the opening track and lead single, “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt,” from With Love And Squalor, I almost did a double-take in thinking it was a new single from the Killers. Then, not five tracks later on “Cash Cow,” I was struck by the undertones of Hot Hot Heat that I heard in the verses. Though those loose comparisons are not exact, they serve to situate the musical sound that We Are Scientists craft on this album: a brand of dance-rock-that-you-can’t-quite-dance-to fills itself with guitar-heavy hooks and mostly (and unfortunately) one-dimensional structuring. It is a framework that works quite nicely on the opening half of the album, but wears itself away to near transparency by the end. Vocalist Keith Murray is mush easier on the ears than both Flowers and HHH’s Steve Bays, which should make their tracks a little more immediately listenable. In actual fact, though, it makes many of the album tracks feel a little... safer, I suppose. The adolescent emotions running throughout With Love And Squalor are a little too glossy for their own good, showing maybe a little too much of the former and not enough of the latter.

The album cannot be accused of aiming low. Each song from start to finish goes right for your vital organs, albeit with only a couple finding success. “Nobody Move…” is a “Somebody Told Me” sound-alike without the upfront, gossipy lyrics, and “Cash Cow” is a crowded and noisier take on “No, Not Now.” While We Are Scientists have put more six-string on their album than the Killers or HHH, their overall sound still feels shallow by comparison. Whether this is because the other two bands both employ keyboard sounds to take things up one more stratosphere is a debatable point.

“Can’t Lose,” the best track here, shows both why We Are Scientists might be either very bad or very good poker players. For 11 tracks, they lay all their cards out on the table right away for everyone to see, which might seem all right for the short term but can quickly be picked up by the experienced. But for one three-and-a-half minute stretch, they contain themselves long enough to craft a really solid piece of rock and roll (which makes the title “Can’t Lose” that much more apt). This ends up reflecting well on the rest of their work, bringing us the promise of future evolutions on forthcoming albums, and that might be where they get the better of the Killers and Hot Hot Heat. By no means have We Are Scientists made a great record, but it shows enough promise to make us believe that it might just be possible in the future.


Reviewed by: Matt Sheardown
Reviewed on: 2006-01-18
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