Banter, so much banter. Known almost as much for their ridiculous sense of humour as their energetic indie music, New York’s We Are Scientists have released their fifth album Helter Seltzer. The opening track ‘Buckle’, and its accompanying music video, are almost self-referential in this respect as (main) vocalist and guitarist Keith Murray states: “I want you to buckle when you think of me.”
Taking a step back in time to recap on the story so far: the band’s 2005 debut With Love and Squalor was a piece of guitar-led perfection, 2008’s follow-up Brain Thrust Mastery was refined and suave in all the right ways, 2010’s Barbara slapped the “indie” thing right on the nose, and 2014’s TV en Français was just a little disappointing. The negativity towards the latter stems from a general feeling that it missed the mark, and that’s pretty much that.
However, do not fear! The jovial duo have produced the goods on record number five, by combining in some combination of percentages all that came before Helter Seltzer is an empowered album with a bewildering artwork.
Presenting itself as a sequence of hits, the album is essentially a collection of guitar-led classics. Starting with preceding single ‘Buckle’, the tone is set much in the vein of the band’s debut album as Murray’s vocal and an electric guitar dominate. Rather appropriately, the following track ‘In My Head’ is somewhat reminiscent of the band’s second album with its more lush production and layers. Another single follows in ‘Too Late’ which is nothing short of infectious, and on par with the band’s best singles to date.
’Hold On’ and ‘We Need A Word’ and solemn and emotive somewhere in the realm of ‘Spoken For’ of ‘Pittsburgh’, whilst the latter employs a guitar style not a million miles from ‘Textbook’, with this charming contrast signalling it as one of the record’s stand out tracks.
The album’s second half is very much a romantic album by content, with Murray detailing various aspects of his emotions throughout, from his patience in ‘Waiting For You’ to his desires in ‘Headlights’. ‘Headlights’ is an energetic proclamation made all the more emotive via some enjoyable vocal harmonies. In contrast, ‘Want For Nothing’ is a charming acoustic number, preceded by the exciting twist and turns of ‘Classic Love’ which is itself somewhat reminiscent of the classic ‘This Scene Is Dead’. Guitar effects warp the closing track ‘Forgiveness’ which, in short, is infinitely better than the Editors single of the same name.
Whilst the artwork is puzzling, the music that constitutes Helter Seltzer is simply excellent. Adding to a long history of high quality albums - minus one - We Are Scientists have done it again. Proving that their considerable musical talent is much only by a crippling sense of humour, the duo of Keith Murray and Chris Cain have struck out with a dazzling collection of indie-pop compositions.