WE ARE SCIENTISTS Barbara (2010 UK 10-track CD album - We Are Scientists return with the follow-up to 2008s Brain Thrust Mastery. Longtime WAS listeners will hear a record that resembles debut With Love & Squalor in its tendency to sound like three guys playing and singing and drinking and very occasionally cussing. But Barbara has a flavour all its own and its borne of a couple of years extra hair on the chest[s] plus a brand new set of hands and feet behind the drum kitin the shape of Andy Burrows [ex-Razorlight]. The results represent We Are Scientists finest work in their ten years from early singles Rules Dont Stop & Nice Guys each a brutally efficient pop reduction to expansive harmonic adventures Pittsburgh and Foreign Kicks)
Since the release of 2008's Brain Thrust Mastery, We Are Scientists have enlisted former Razorlight man Andy Burrows on drums and created and starred in a series of short MTV mock-docs.
Listeners to this fourth album concerned about any comedy influence can rest easy, though, as Brooklyn-based pair Keith Murray and Chris Cain have only allowed the addition of Burrows to affect their day jobs. After all, one Flight of the Conchords is enough.
WAS have long been a compelling live proposition, and have previously impressed with singles like the bittersweet emo indie of After Hours and breakthrough dance-punker The Great Escape. Barbara unexpectedly marks the first occasion when they've delivered a truly consistent album.
The album's zenith is surely ace drinking paean Jack & Ginger. Aside from the verses of scuffed guitars and the cute kids TV show synth melody, there's a chunk of Elvis Costello regret in the chorus as Murray intones: "No matter what I do, its way too late too late for self-control".
Following tune Pittsburgh is another solid effort, albeit slower with wiry, indie-psych guitars reminiscent of Mansun's underrated Legacy single, with poignant vocal harmonies and imposing Burrows drumming. Excellent album-closer Central AC is perhaps the most surprising moment on Barbara. Powered by snappy guitar riffs seemingly borrowed from Broken Bells' equally excellent The Mall and Misery, sped up and aggravated, its chorus explodes into happy-period Beatles sunshine.
It's not all about Murray and Burrows. Cain's bass is allowed to shine on the Rules Don't Stop and notably I Don't Bite. The latter is great fun, led by an obese bassline that surely brought Cain's bandmates and studio minions out in lottery winner smiles.
Whether or not the addition of Burrows is solely responsible for the improvement in consistency on this fourth album isn't clear, but Barbara is their best work by far. Current fans will be glad and new ones may be easier to come by, particularly if the new material can be performed during festival season with the zeal it is here. --Lou Thomas
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