We Are Scientists - Barbara
I cannot call myself a big fan of Cali's (more recently, New York's) We Are Scientists, but surely a fan all the same. I cannot remember how I came across lead single "Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt" from their sophomore release With Love And Squalor, but it was an apt introduction to this upbeat indie rock group. I went out and bought the album (back when I still purchased music on a regular basis), and was more or less satisfied with it front to back. I didn't think I'd ever buy another, but by the time Brain Thrust Mastery came around I was feeling the urge to, and much to my surprise they managed to impress me further by constructing a more cohesive and varied effort. My expectations were much higher on Barbara, and while I am not totally let down, I cannot say they've taken much of a step forward.
The songs are all concise, compacted bursts of pop rock, with what I consider their traditional guitar flair and lyrical ambiguity. Many aspects of WAS scream "been there, done that" to myself and I'm sure many other indie fans. But they've carved a nice niche of dedicated fans with their seemingly random sparks of ingenuity that pop up from album to album. Barbara has a few really catchy numbers, not the least of which being lead track and first single "Rules Don't Stop". Much can be said of the added energy in the percussion department, with the band having recruited former Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows. Listen to his fills during the chorus here, and make note of his drumming throughout, because it's a certain album highlight. "I Don't Bite" has a sleazy groove to it that WAS loves to incorporate in various forms from album to album, but also has a surprising little chorus to it. "Jack and Ginger" might be the best to choose from on Barbara, a bit of an atypical high-tempo rocker that is too infectious to disregard for lacking a bit of creativity. "Pittsburgh" is easy to sing along to, very melodic and a bit Arcade Fire-ish in it's construction. "Break It Up" is a percussive monster, very aggressive compared to it's counterparts.
There are a few throw-aways here that end up sounding too similar to everything else to really stand out, and speaking out of myself, I think a lot of rock fans will hear WAS and not pay them much mind for similar reasons. They are very similar to quite a few other bands, but to my ears they do just enough to stand out and definitely deserve the amount of attention they've gained thus far. Barbara certainly won't be a staple in many listener's collections, but it has enough spirit and spunk to warrant a place in any collection of upbeat, infectious pop-rock.
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