Fun is the name of the game with the vastly entertaining We Are Scientists. Whether the album sleeve or the delectable, fizzy bounce of the music itself, We Are Scientists’ Barbara seems exclusively designed to induce smiles and sideways glances from wary talking cats.
I last encountered W.A.S. on Brain Thrust Mastery, an album I famously and profoundly described as being “the rightful fruition of alternative rock.”
This time around, Christopher Ian Cain and Keith Austin Murray have dispatched the “former hitter-guy” for Razorlight, Andy Burrows, to provide some backbone to the rhythm section. The consequential pop crunch is as it always was: easy, fun, delicious, charming.
For these physicists of sound and melody, the knack for producing digestible, danceable pop rock is innate. It’s as though Burrows, Cain and Murray don’t even have to try to produce addictive, entertaining stuff. That’s not to say that We Are Scientists have cornered the market, of course, but more to suggest that these guys have memorized the formula.
Barbara comes with a more stripped-down sensibility than did Brain Thrust Mastery. Light and surprisingly tender, the record’s ten songs roll through divine riffs and swinging textures on their way to providing all-out satisfaction.
Nothing short of a flash image of John McCain in his underwear was able to wipe the smile off my face after the groovy “Rules Don’t Stop” captured my speakers and took over my house. Plates danced around until they fell off the shelves and neighbors called the cops again.
The grooves never stop, either, rolling through the chunky “I Don’t Bite” and the unbelievably beautiful “Jack & Ginger.” Try to forget the chorus. Go ahead.
Of course, We Are Scientists may be a lot of things to a lot of people, but they aren’t one-trick ponies. The lush, gorgeous “Pittsburgh” proves the band’s mettle in terms of gauzy balladry. The lament showcases Murray’s tones and the ascension toward longing is startlingly touching.
So no, I’m not ashamed to say that We Are Scientists have done it again. And I’m not ashamed to admit that they’ve touched me in very, very special places with Barbara. Nor am I ashamed to say that the groovy bounce and swaying splendor of this album had me dancing, Risky Business-style, through many a dark night.