We Are Scientists, "With Love and Squalor"
New York's We Are Scientists certainly have their reference points in order. Musically they tick all the correct post-punk boxes: "Bloc Party drum patterns, Franz Ferdinand bass lines and Killers melodies," observes the Guardian (four stars out of five). They have astutely followed the Strokes' hype model: selling Brooklyn dive-bar cool to the trend-spotting Brits before turning around and shopping their big-in-the-U.K. credentials back around to an unsuspecting United States. That's all very well, but can you dance to it? Yes -- "if you don't mind dancing to essentially the same tune for twelve tracks," says Prefix Magazine (two stars out of five), standing grumpily, arms folded, by the bar, before adding, "It's considerably less enjoyable if you like to be challenged by an art form." Pitchfork Media (rating 6.7), on the other hand, is cautiously tapping its feet: "The band attempts to deliver a perfect single on every track, and expectedly, only a few deliver that rush. Most of these tracks have hooks aimed straight for your jugular, but 'Can't Lose' shows the band could go even farther with a little restraint." Leave it to E! Online (grade B) to really shake a tail feather: "'With Love and Squalor' certainly won't change pop music as we know it, but it packs surprisingly huge melodies and shamelessly danceable beats. The opening track and first single, 'Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt,' could lure a legion of teenyboppers their way."
Granted, it's a pretty irresistible formula: take a crack team of nondescript indie-rock musician dudes (in this case, veterans of the Wallflowers, Cibo Matto and Spacehog). Add one charismatic female singer (here, a voluptuous young woman who luxuriates in the nom-de-rock Chantal Claret). Stir in some shiny pop-rock hooks and a slew of saucy lyrics, and top off with a humorous name. You've got yourself a hit combination, right? The Denver Post is suitably convinced by this eponymously titled debut, gushing: "You can't stop the unflinching rock 'n' roll of Morningwood. You can't even hope to contain it." The San Francisco Chronicle (four out of five), meanwhile, coos that, as she "tears into some rude, sometimes crude, but always airtight tunes, such as the just-plain-dirty 'Take Off Your Clothes' Chantal Claret has both the trash and class of [Chrissie Hynde and Joan Jett]." The comparisons keep on coming with E! Online (grade B-), which finds that the music "feels as if it was inspired by awkward adolescent feel-up LPs by the likes of Pat Benatar and Cheap Trick" while noting "the bouncy 'Jetsetter' basically makes [Morningwood] sound like Weezer with, uh, boobies."
BR549 , "Dog Days"
BR549 have ploughed a lonely country furrow for some years now. A little too hokey and traditional to be lumped in with trendy "alt" acts like Will Oldham or Wilco, they don't sit well with the slick ballads of Kenny Chesney and Toby Keith on FM radio either. "Musically, what we're doing is still really country," explains lead singer Chuck Mead in an interview with the Knoxville Metro Pulse. "Maybe people have perceived us as being some kind of retro act because we never wore modern-looking cowboy hats. But we were never retro. We're not selling antiques. It's not like we got together and said, 'Hey, let's start an old-timey band.' That's just the way we were marketed for a while." The New York Post (three-and-a-half stars out of five) approves of "the percolating, upbeat tunes" on new album "Dog Days" and suggests that they "bridge the gap between Bob Wills' country swing and Sun Records' rockabilly." Country Weekly, meanwhile, laments the loss of some exuberance from previous efforts, but concludes it "slides by on its easygoing, low-key charm and the dry wit of inspired weirdness like "Let Jesus Make You Breakfast." And perhaps the lack of a niche within the contemporary scene isn't such a problem after all, suggests the Orlando Sentinel (four stars out of five): "When BR549 embraces its roots with such conviction, the result goes beyond novelty to weather the long haul."
-- Matt Glazebrook