“Why not keep this interesting?” lead vocalist Keith Murray belts out on opening track, “Buckle.” This lyric serves as the controlling idea for “Helter Seltzer,” the fifth studio album by alternative indie rock band We Are Scientists. Though the album is rooted in the band’s usual alternative rock sound, each track strives to have some kind of unique sonic element to distinguish its sound from the other tracks. Though this is successful on the album’s highlights, overall it has mixed results.
“In My Head” employs a slight reverb on the guitar riff, as well as bright synths to give the track a spacey electronica atmosphere. Later in the album, the calmer “Want for Nothing” opens with a folksy blend of guitar and violin, creating a nostalgic sense of driving home on a winding, endless road on a chilly fall afternoon.
Overall, the album’s sound can be described as “alternative plus something,” where that “something” is a pinch of another genre, peppered in to keep things fresh. “Too Late” has a splash of pop, while “We Need a Word” blends a dash of post-rock into its guitar riff. And for the most part, it does keep this album interesting, especially if you listen to the whole thing in one go.
But while the album explores pop, electronica and folk in a few songs’ instrumentation, the vocals leave a bit to be desired. The lyrics are occasionally indistinct under the instruments, and could have benefited from clearer audio mixing. Still, the content of the lyrics doesn’t stand out or capture the listener’s attention. We all know what it’s like when a line of a song is so gripping that it sticks around in our imagination long after the song ends. Most of the lyrics in the album don’t cover ground you haven’t heard covered elsewhere, nor will they linger in your mind well after the song’s over. Thankfully, a great exception occurs in “Hold On”: “Go be unimpressed / You and all your unfair assumptions / This is for the best / Just as long as you care for something.”
The last few tracks fall flat sonically, namely “Classic Love,” “Headlights” and “Forgiveness,” as they don’t seem to make any attempt to break away from the run-of-the-mill alternative rock sound, unlike the other songs. If that’s more to your taste, this may be a good thing. If not, then at least they’re among the shortest tracks. This is not to say that they’re bad tracks, just a little out-of-place when the others attempt to break the mold.
While the album doesn’t take a whole lot of risks with its lyrics, the use of other genres keeps most of its tracks fresh, and enables them to develop a distinct atmosphere. Despite the lyrical shortcomings and weak final tracks, We Are Scientists have delivered a solid album with a decent amount of variety.
Rating: 3/5 Stars