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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

November 21, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: Inconsistent style and dull tracks sink album

"Helter Seltzer"

We Are Scientists

We Are Scientists is an independent rock band from California whose latest release, “Helter Seltzer,” struggles with  genre. It lacks any real hard or challenging tracks, making the entire album bleed together. Lacking standouts, “Helter Seltzer” is, unfortunately, a forgettable album.

This isn’t to say that the music is problematic, however. The music is technically smooth. The beats and guitars are consistent, and the backing vocals help to bring out the best in every chorus. Quirky noises from an electric keyboard or string section pop in and out on the tracks to add a bit of flare. All the sounds blend into a sweet mix. Nothing sticks out for the wrong reasons, but then again, nothing sticks out at all.

“Helter Seltzer,” at its worst, feels like it could be by any band because there are simply no distinguishing features. At its best, it feels like one long, sophisticated pop song, but nothing feels quite like the rock label that the band puts on itself. The band’s work on “Helter Seltzer” seems to have confused We Are Scientists, genrewise, which trickles down to the listeners.

Every song has the same structure. There is a brief instrumental intro, which dissolves into the proper ambience of the song. Vocals then kick in. On “Want for Nothing,” it’s an acoustic guitar that leads in, followed by vocals pining for love. A subtle string section comes in just before the chorus, and then drums enter, followed by the second verse and a delicate chorus. It’s a pleasant song, with understated strings and piano at various points. However, it follows the same blueprint as every other song on the album, which makes it get lost in the crowd. The songs are crisp but similar, and nothing comes close to being great.

“Classic Love” shows how the band is torn between a rock sound and a pop sound. The chorus is like any other chorus on the album. “Classic love isn’t good enough anymore” is stated with smooth backing vocals. What does pop is a sharp guitar riff that comes and goes. The riff feels bold, but the chorus is anything but.

“Helter Seltzer” can be skipped without fear. It’s pleasant, and as a pop record, it’s fine. The band plays it safe but begins to get life when it gets closer to the edge. If it didn’t feel so smooth, it might be worth going out of the way for a listen.