An eclectic mix of influences
It has become a running gag between audiophiles and music industry insiders alike that the term “indie” is now nebulous to the point of near uselessness. Bands like We Are Scientists contribute to this conundrum by further expanding the boundaries of the genre, and Megaplex is a fun, quirky patch on the indie rock quilt.
The American duo We Are Scientists, comprised of Keith Murray and Chris Cain, have put forth a solid effort in their sixth studio release. Megaplex showcases the varied influences of Murray and Cain, as the record offers elements of pop, new wave, hard rock and R&B in addition to a baseline indie rock sound.
Megaplex consistently gives listeners what they would expect from an indie rock album in 2018–upbeat rhythms, joyful sounding chord progressions, big triumphant choruses and catchy melodic guitar riffs, while keeping them on their toes. In an interview with Skiddle, the band commented, “I think it’s our most varied record and that’s because we had so many different songs that we could just be like, well what are the ten most awesome songs in this crazy collection of tunes we have?”
We Are Scientists’ diverse influences give the album a unique voice and character, but it also inhibits Megaplex from feeling like more than just a collection of fun, catchy tunes. One song feels so distant from the next that the album lacks true interconnectivity at times. Still, this does not negate the quality of the music on Megaplex. It is a consistent pleasure from front to back, with few dull moments.
The album begins with its lead single, “One In, One Out,” a synth-heavy pop-rock anthem. Like many others on the album, the song’s best characteristics are its upbeat major tonality and pulsing build-ups that are paid off by epic choruses. “One In, One Out” is the type of tune that will be blasted out of open car windows all summer long–a perfect single.
“One In, One Out” is followed by another standout, “Notes In A Bottle.” This track has a distinctly different sound, as electric guitar replaces synthesizer as the lead instrument. The arpeggiated, reverb-laden intro riff is reminiscent of Band of Horses and There Is Nothing Left To Lose era Foo Fighters. Murray’s guitar work continues to carry the song as it crescendos with a tasteful, melodic guitar solo followed by a triumphant sounding outro driven home by the refrain, “Notes in a bottle / I’m so sick of waiting, always sitting waiting.”
“Your Light Has Changed” and “Now or Never” introduce a hard rock influence with fuzzy, overdriven guitar riffs. This influence blends into a sound more consistent with the majority of the record in the latter track, serving as an example of how effectively the band can manage its diverse influences when at their best.
“Heart Is A Weapon” brings a pop and R&B influence to Megaplex. While lyricism rarely stands out as the band’s greatest strength, this song effectively presents a connection between love and pain through the metaphorical framework of weaponry.
Ultimately, the band said it best: Megaplex is ten awesome songs from a crazy collection of tunes, rather than a truly cohesive record. Despite its shortcomings, the album is a fun time for listeners of indie rock and synth-pop.