We Are Scientists have always been one of my favourite bands, and they’re one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, they have this energy to them, they crack jokes and they write really great pop songs. But despite this, they are a very strange band. A lot of people getting into them would be tricked into thinking they’re a kind of novelty act, and a quick trip to youtube where they have the hilarious web-series, “Steve Wants His Money” or any of their music videos would give you that impression. But look past them being attacked by bears, double dating with dogs and coming up with “radio porn” and you’ll notice that actually, their humour rarely comes up within the actual music, they just make brilliant indie pop-punk tunes, like Weezer used to do before Rivers studied musical theory.
Of course, whilst I could compare them to Weezer, I don’t think it would be appropriate for the album we’re going to discuss, their 2008 album Brain Thrust Mastery (which maybe their 3rd or 2nd album depending on who you ask, there’s kind of a dis-owning of their self-released debut). When putting together the album, Keith Murray, the bands guitarist and lead vocalist stated that it was a more studio effort than their previous album, With Love and Squalor, which had been designed to play live. And it really shows. With Love and Squalor was essentially a giant bomb to get them noticed after their debut got them nowhere, Brain Thrust Mastery was to be the thing that would take them into the big leagues with their friends Editors and Arctic Monkeys (There’s a great Arctic Monkeys Brit Awards speech where Keith accepts on behalf of Arctic Monkeys, ironically it’s probably the closest WAS will get to that). It didn’t really happen despite the big push and support of Radio 1 DJ’s, although it’s lead single, After Hours, is probably the closest they’ve gotten to a hit single, after being featured in video games and the movie “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”. After Hours is probably the simplest track on the album, it’s insanely catchy and pretty much loops the same riff throughout the track, but it does show off the added instrumentation that We Are Scientists decided to add to create a bigger, more unique sounding album.
It feels inherently different than With Love and Squalor, musically and lyrically, it feels more emotionally darker, whilst WLaS had aspects of self-loathing, against a more musically vivid background, it takes a force of its own. The impression this album gives me is like the fall-out of a party gone wrong, or the dogged nice guy. Let’s See It has a chorus of someone begging for forgiveness and lying to someone else and himself. “You know I wouldn’t say/something I didn’t mean/how many times must this be repeated/before you believe it” and Ghouls and Tonight, possibly the albums highlights just out right exclaim that “We all recognise/I’m the problem here” and “I end everyday trying to think my way out of my life” But it adds to the music and the emotion, when the guitars, plugged up with delay and distortion come into effect mid-way through the track, it hits you like a ton of bricks and you can feel the angst and the loathing in there.
So Brain Thrust Mastery, word salad name, kind of a word salad album. It takes We Are Scientists out of their comfort zone and they embrace it and have fun with it. I think that it’s definitely more of an “album” experience than their other efforts, and whilst it loses the energy in some places, it makes up for it in style. And maybe it makes it less accessible, but We Are Scientists always have an ear for a good melody and this is no exception and it’s a really brilliant album to listen to, so go check it out.
. After Hours
. Chick Lit