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cd review: Pretentious Scientists Prove Nothing

...With Love and Squalor... Fails to Shine

By Andrew Guerra

With Love and Squalor

We Are Scientists

Virgin Records

Released: Jan. 10, 2006

It must be tough to be We Are Scientists. How are they to grab the attention of music listeners attempting to sort through the glut of mediocre music? Of course, this problem is only worsened by their music, which not only stands firmly in the mediocre category, but is also reminiscent of a dozen other more popular bands. We Are Scientists attempts to solve this problem through both the backing of a major record label, Virgin Records, and an attitude that simultaneously mocks the record industry and wants its love. Unfortunately, while they may manage to gain attention, their music isn’t cause enough to hold it.

“Of Love and Squalor” is the debut album from the New York based trio. Their sound consists of loud guitar riffs, fast beats, a prominent bass line, and lyrics begging to be considered cool. While We Are Scientists certainly is a little unique, the sound has enough in common with other bands such as Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, and Hot Hot Heat such that there’s not much of anything new. Of course, similarity alone does not condemn them to also-ran status — it’s certainly true that several of the earlier songs on the CD are quite good, including “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt,” “Can’t Lose,” and “It’s A Hit.” However, the majority of the songs aren’t near the quality of the ones they’re mimicking.

For all of the emotional resonance that a title such as “Of Love and Squalor” promises, the songs on the CD fail to leave much, if any, impact. The subject matter certainly seems to be accurately named as most of the lyrics deal with relationships of some type, but none of them aspires to the depth required to describe love. While it’s not necessarily a problem that We Are Scientists fails to say anything most of the time, they also fail to provide anything musically compelling. What results is an album full of perfunctory songs, such that it soon becomes almost a chore to listen to them.

When one picks up the “Of Love and Squalor” CD, the most immediately striking aspect is the picture of the band on the cover. Dressed meticulously in their nerd-chic clothing with slightly rumpled shirts and long, unkempt hair, they look to be the very image of indie rockdom, “Rushmore”-inspired pretentiousness. And, to further this, they’re holding very cute kittens. Unfortunately, this style reeks slightly of market research. Then, of course, there’s the sticker attached to the front, proclaiming “Of Love and Squalor” to be “The (laudatory adjective) debut album featuring the (overblown superlative) single ‘Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt.,” a move that both acknowledges the ridiculous nature of most record reviews, which regularly proclaim someone new as the best band ever, and looks for similar treatment. Perhaps they realize such hype is the only way “Of Love and Squalor” has a chance of getting a good review. It could be a good purchase for anyone who is desperately in love with a similar-sounding band and cannot wait for the next album, but unfortunately, the rest of us should skip pass over this one.