album reviews

We Are Scientists
With Love and Squalor
Virgin Records (2006)

New York trio We Are Scientists could be the world's greatest Killers impersonators on their debut, "With Love and Squalor." But their catchy tunes hold up in that crowded dance-rock scene, with the fervent yearning of "This Scene Is Dead" and a driving bassline in "Can't Lose" that instantly recalls the rapid-fire melodies of the Chili Peppers' Flea.

Even when their songs are at their most derivative -- they must have strained to hold back from launching into "Somebody Told Me" in the middle of their song "Cash Cow" -- We Are Scientists sound more peppy than unoriginal. Even so, the album suffers from a few predictable debut problems: songs so speedy they nearly trip over each other; a formulaic songwriting approach (straightforward verses paired with wailing choruses); and an overproduced guitar sound.

But despite such rookie mistakes, the Scientists find ways to put their own spin on borrowed sounds. "Lousy Reputation" melds Cure-like vocals with a plaintive chorus and a glossy, swirling guitar. That relentless guitar sound is almost inconsequential on the album's most unpredictable track: "Textbook" is a toned-down ballad that emphasizes singer Keith Murray's mopey Morrissey croon with a faintly thumping bass line.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 23 June 2006, Page WE08
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