Scientific by Scientific (Review)

Scientific’s self-titled debut possesses a sense of nostalgic fun that sounds retro without being kitschy.

It’s a Cornerstone fact; it’s impossible to see every single concert that you want to. Trust me, I’ve tried for the past four years (and I’ll try to again this year). There are just too many shows (not that I’m complaining, mind you) to hit them all, and some of your favorite bands will inevitably be scheduled at the same time.

Such was the case with Scientific. I was eager to see their set (their description in the Cornerstone flyer had intrigued me), but unfortunately, I was at another show when they began. I was only able to catch the last bit of their set, but those 3 or 4 songs I heard somehow managed to get stuck so deep inside my head that it feels like such a great relief to finally have their CD.

It’d be way too easy to lump Scientific in with the entire ​“new wave” genre. Think angular guitar melodies, analog synth noodling, vocals that sound like they belong to a calculus professor, and maybe even a skinny tie and pair of weird sunglasses for good measure. But that’s just what I’m going to do.

All of the musical and stylistic clichés are there, and it sounds just like what you’d expect from a ​‘90s band trying to sound like they were writing music from the ​‘80s. But who cares, because Scientific writes great pop hooks and melodies, and that analog synth noodling just sweetens the deal. But I’ll admit I’m glad the album is under 30 minutes and the songs are short and to-the-point. It has to deal with that whole ​“brevity being the soul of wit” thing.

Although the album has a few slow moments, they are greatly outshined by the album’s high points. ​“Fond” disguises a Pedro the Lion-esque song about humility (“You know and I know I’m nothing on my own/​I was wrong to think I was strong/​Take me back”) as a quirky, synth-driven pop song. ​“Mysterious Line” sounds oddly reminiscent of The Cure’s ​“A Forest,” if ​“A Forest” had been a wistful love song instead of, well, a Cure song. And when Christian Lee Wargo sings ​“My mind and body/​Designed to live/​Designed to live again” (“Mind and Body”), it’s simply one the best praise and worship songs I’ve heard in a long time.

Some eyebrows may raise at the presence of Johnathon Ford (Unwed Sailor, Roadside Monument). But if you’re looking for bass pyrotechnics, look elsewhere; Ford’s playing sounds like it came right off of Seventeen Seconds (which works perfectly here).

All in all, I really like this album. It infuses a quirky sense of nostalgic fun that sounds retro without being kitschy (or is that kitschy without being retro?) with a great ear for songwriting and the right amount of gloomy atmosphere. One of the better Christian release I’ve heard in some time, and I hope to see their entire set at Cornerstone this year.