Let's be honest: We Are Scientists' record, With Love and Squalor, is nothing you haven't heard before from the likes of The Killers or The Bravery. But the group seems aware of its Johnny-come-lately status, masking insecurity with a forced Weird Al-ish good humor. Which somehow makes it seem all the more dorky and desperate -- three dudes in their late 20s hoping to get laid by rad indie girls. But who will fault them for that?
The group's story is equally standard: Three (admittedly talented) guys from all over the place (Utah!) converge in Brooklyn, play South By Southwest and CMJ, "break" in the U.K. and sign with a major label. QED.
The main single, "Nobody Move, Nobody Gets Hurt," sets the template for much of the record: four-on-the-floor rock-disco beats, jumpy bass and distorted guitars combining single-note Interpol lines with David Byrne funk and the requisite explosive choruses. Singer Keith Murray's low croon summons a slightly pathetic sexual bravado reminiscent of Pulp, right down to the faintest hint of a fake Brit accent.
The fourth song, "Can't Lose," is built around a rhythm suggesting ska or reggae, while really being neither, then pulls the old trick, perfected by The Police, of switching into a straight-time anthemic chorus. On "Callbacks," Murray adopts an Elvis Costello angry-young-man persona, while the band performs an able imitation of a raunched-out Attractions.
All bitching aside, the record is actually quite appealing. It's made with that in mind -- it's pop. So while We Are Scientists enjoys its 15 minutes, you might as well enjoy these 36.9 minutes of unpretentious dance-rock abandon. Ultimately, I suppose there's no shame in biding your time and pouncing on the appropriate moment to shine. As Murray sings, "I got a great idea / I'm gonna wait right here / While everything is added up, up, up." -