We Are Scientists - Barbara
Abbas Ali 10/06/2010
Formed in Berkeley, California in 2000, indie veterans We Are Scientists return with album number four, oddly-named Barbara. Most readers will first have become familiar with them with their breakthrough hits 'The Great Escape' and 'Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt', which came from the breakthrough album With Love And Squalor in 2005.
More recently, 2008's Brain Through Mastery may have yielded the beautiful single 'After Hours', but the record made much less of an impact. A series of comedic MTV shorts, Steve Wants His Money aired in late 2009, highlighting the sense of humour that comes across in the music Keith Murray and Chris Cain. But have they still got the chops when it comes to the actual music itself?
Singles 'Rules Don't Stop', and 'Nice Guy' certainly do remind you of the bands' ability to fashion a great song, with Franz Ferdinand style guitar play and beats, and a slacker outlook. The same lyrical concerns, of being an insecure, nerdy outsider, are still the mainstay, and increasingly joined by no longer being the new kid in town, a sense of time running out, “So long ambition / It's not a competition / I can't win anymore”.
The bittersweet emotions that are the mainstay of indie music are also correct and present on songs like on the sordid, wasted conquest of 'Coke & Ginger'.
While the whole thing makes for a rewarding and solid listen, a ride that WAS fans will enjoy taking, it's no patch on, for example, The National's High Velvet album of earlier this year, as an indie rock album, lacking as it does variations in pace and mood. At times the witty self-loathing of Keith Murray's lyrics becomes rather one-note, and one feels it would be better to change gears and swap it for simple, honest sincerity.