Earlier this week, We Are Scientists, now a pair instead of a trio, released their sophomore effort Brain Thrust Mastery. Despite spending much of 2007 drying out, losing weight, learning how to drive racecars and lecturing at UK universities, Keith Murray (guitar, vocals) and Chris Cain (bass, backing vocals) managed to find time to write the new album even without former drummer Michael Tapper, who retired from the group last fall. What they came up with is just as solid as We Are Scientist’s debut With Love & Squalor.
Brain Thrust Mastery begins with lots of distortion and Murray’s and Cain’s vocals echo in very low and subdued. A steady and pounding beat elevates the song to the dance party jams that We Are Scientists have made into their M.O. Synth parts blast through songs like “Let’s See It” and “Lethal Enforcer.” The latter, as well as “Tonight” and “That’s What Counts,” draws inspiration from the rock and soul sounds of the legendary Hall & Oates. Upon my first listen of “Lethal Enforcer,” I can be quoted as saying, “Such a dance, 80s, Hall & Oates-influenced, synthy, wonderful joy of a song!” It would seem that off-the-record Jessica didn’t major in eloquence and articulation, but you’re dying to hear it now, right? Right.
Murray pounds out driving guitar riffs and sings with the voice of an English indie rocker while Cain’s bass lines incite an infectious dance groove beat. The pair know how to harmonize and layer their vocals quite well, exemplified on “Let’s See It” and “After Hours.” Murray again draws influence from the likes of Hall & Oates with his distinct vocal patterns on “That’s What Counts” and “Tonight.”
An unknown drummer, perhaps a drum machine, creates catchy as hell hooks as it pounds away on the snare and cymbals, often making the guitar and synth secondary in their effort. Brain Thrust Mastery‘s energy remains at high speed throughout most of the album, even when songs like “Lethal Enforcer” mellow out into slow, shoegaze-y grooves. “Spoken For” slows the disc down with its smooth melodies as it acts as Brain Thrust Mastery‘s ballad. There’s really nothing wrong with ballads, but putting one on a record whose style is completely different is bullshit. Ballads should exist to improve the silence, not to prove that a band can also “do” ballads.
“Spoken For” is out of place on Brain Thrust Mastery and slows the entire album down with ambient instrumentation until “Chick Lit” speeds up the tempo and “Dinosaurs” finally kicks things back into high gear. “Chick Lit” sounds almost forced and ironic in its execution, as if Murray and Cain have been hanging around too many hipsters since they’ve moved to the ultra hip borough of Brooklyn. “Dinosaurs,” my favorite track, is far more genuine with its pounding drum hooks and warped guitar chords.
Somewhat surprisingly, the lyrical content of Brain Thrust Mastery is far heavier than the music behind it. Murray sings about letting loved ones down and buckling under the weight “now that the pressure is on” in “Let’s See It,” sounding rather desperate for something. Self doubt arises in “Lethal Enforcer” in the lyrics, “I promise this is not a test / I just want you to be sure,” and the need to drying out shines through in “After Hours” as Murray claims, “no one has the guts to shut us out. / There’s always the hope that some place will be serving after hours,” and “time means nothing… / We’re all right where we’re supposed to be.”
“Altered Beast” is seemingly angry in its lyrical content — Murray sings, “I know you think you’re saying what I want to hear, / But I’m smart enough to recognize a bad idea,” — yet sounds indifferent due to the music’s slow and mellow nature. Anger would be far more convincing if the tune featured faster riffs or harder drums, yet the song merely drifts along. Far more convincing, though not angry, is closing track, “That’s What Counts,” a song seemingly about a one night stand. Jazzy synth and horns play under Murray’s silky falsetto, “we shouldn’t think about last night; / Nobody’s proud of what they’ve done. / Oh, let’s not argue about what’s right. / Let’s just agree that it was fun.”
On the whole, We Are Scientists have created a tight and dance pop album that consistently had me on my feet groovin’ around. You can pick up a copy of Brain Thrust Mastery in stores now.
02. Let’s See It
03. After Hours
04. Lethal Enforcer
07. Spoken For
08. Altered Beast
09. Chick Lit
11. That’s What Counts
May 17 – Manchester Academy 2/Manchester, England
June 23 – Kasbah/Coventry, England
June 24 – 53 Degres/Preston, England
June 25 – Met Uni/Leeds, England
July 15 – Somerset House/ London, England
July 22 – Ibiza Rocks/Ibiza
We Are Scientists: website | myspace | Brain Thrust Mastery
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