Personnel: Keith Murray (vocals, guitar); Chris Cain (vocals); Max Hart (keyboards, programming); Keith Carne (drums, percussion).
Recording information: Bryant Place East (Room R); Clockwork; Downtown Studios; Fivestar Studios; The Turd Factory.
Illustrator: Dylan Haley.
Having grown from a frenetic neo-new wave indie rock outfit to a surprisingly reliable '80s-influenced pop duo, We Are Scientists' Keith Murray and Chris Cain deliver one of their most sonically accomplished and melodically infectious albums to date with 2016's Helter Seltzer. Produced with keyboardist Max Hart, who played on the band's 2008 album, Brain Thrust Mastery, and has since toured with Katy Perry, Helter Seltzer is a dynamic concoction of '80s new wave and '90s alt-rock. Purportedly having drawn inspiration from Murray's collection of thrift-store vinyl (Billy Idol, Cyndi Lauper, Nine Inch Nails) and benefiting from Hart's expertise in slick modern pop via his time with Perry, We Are Scientists came up with a sound that builds upon the group's post-punk roots while simultaneously pushing them in fresh and exciting directions. The result is an album of angular yet immediately memorable hooks bathed in a fizzy mix of rock guitars, candy-coated synths, and gigantic drumbeats. While you can certainly pick out some of the influences -- a Billy Idol drumbeat here, a Smashing Pumpkins-esque guitar sound there -- they are are used in unexpected ways on songs that would sound as good and as catchy if Murray and Cain simply played them on acoustic guitars. In fact, they do make room for a few old-school acoustic-driven power pop cuts like the yearning "Want for Nothing" and the ebulliently romantic "Waiting for You." As good as those cuts are, it's the Day-Glo planetary thrust of tracks like "Buckle," "In My Head," and "Too Late" that grab your attention and hold you in the sway of their luminous pop warmth. ~ Matt Collar