We Are Scientists - Barbara Review

It’s hard to get a straight answer out of We Are Scientists. Known as much for their abstract humor away from their music than their ‘80s tinged post-punk indie rock, the band is always finding ways to spread both of their gifts to the world. We may never actually know where the origin of the band’s name comes from, but look around the internet and you’ll see a multitude of explanations. The reason for this, more than likely, is that each time guitarist/vocalist Keith Murray or bassist/backup vocalist Chris Cain are asked that very question during an interview, a different off the wall answer is given. That’s just the personality of Cain and Murray, the driving force behind WAS. The duo’s witty, laugh out loud humor was apparent in early interviews, was highlighted in classic music videos and came to a crescendo when they were given their own television show on MTV last year called Steve Wants His Money. When it comes to the band’s music though, We Are Scientists plays a little bit closer to the chest. Rather than making their music as humorous as the videos for their songs seem to be, the band’s lyrics recall heartbreak and drunken nights out on the town set to groovy, hook-filled pop music. The band’s newest album, Barbara, is no different. It’s just what a We Are Scientists album should be – danceable (or, as the band puts it, “vaguely danceable”), generally relatable and infectious as hell.

From the get go, the in-your-face pop splendor of the opening track “Rules Don’t Stop,” the listener is let in on the band’s newest surprise, they’ve shed much of the new-wave gloss that was ever so present on their last album Brain Thrust Mastery and have gone back to the basics. Barbara sounds much more like their fantastic 2005 major label debut With Love and Squalor in that it embraces big hooks, catchy choruses and relies little on studio magic. Just about every song on Barbara sticks with you, Murray’s ranging vocals just seem to have an addictively contagious quality about them. It’s hard not to sing along when you put this album on, hell it’s hard not to uncontrollably sing these songs at the most random times.

There’s more to We Are Scientists than just catchy ditties though. Two of the band’s better slowed down songs are featured on Barbara. “Pittsburgh” is one of the true highlights of the album, as Murray emphatically sings in the chorus that he and his significant other are “only after one thing.” Meanwhile it is Cain’s bassline on “Foreign Kicks” that creates a template for which Murray lays out another fantastic subdued track made for slow dances and late nights full of holding scotch glasses and looking out windows. The band really shines on the majority of their up tempo numbers too though. Along with the aforementioned “Rules Don’t Stop,” the punk rock influenced “Nice Guys” is a nice change of pace and “Break It Up” is reminiscent of the best of their last album. Barbara comes to an end not with an epic horn filled new-wave monstrosity but rather a simple, two and a half minute, harmonious rock song called “Central AC.” It’s a song that features both a rather rare Murray guitar solo and a somewhat abrupt ending. It’s also a pretty cool way to end a fairly fantastic LP.

Though there are times when some of the choruses on Barbara get a bit repetitive, most are catchy enough to look past their shortcomings. Overall Murray and Cain’s latest effort is a return to form for the band. And while they may never top the immediacy and ferocity of their fantastic 2005 debut, Barbara at least captures some of the magic that they put on disc five years ago. Oh and if you want my opinion, I think they got their name from an old Cap’n Jazz song.

"Barbara" is on sale June 15, 2010 from Masterswan.

Tyler Barlass • Editor

Tyler is passionate about Music, Sports, Beer, Comic Books, Food, Cocktails and other seemingly unrelated things.


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