Brain Thrust Mastery
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Reviewed by David Medsker
I’d like to think We Are Scientists took my review for their 2006 album With Love and Squalor (best, album cover, ever) to heart. The album had moments of genius, notably “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt” and “The Great Escape,” but ultimately suffered from a lack of variety. “Bands like We Are Scientists need a few more tricks with which to coax the elusive masses. Next time, a bigger laboratory would work wonders,” I said at the time. Two years have since passed, and the band, now reduced to a duo (drummer Michael Tapper retired), is back with their second album and Astralwerks debut Brain Thrust Mastery. And wouldn’t you know it, they used a bigger laboratory.
It seemed that the first time around, We Are Scientists only put to tape what the band could reproduce live. That rule is discarded before opening track “Ghouls” is halfway finished. Squealing guitar licks, cacophonous drum tracks, and more harmonies than With Love and Squalor had in its entirety. “Let’s See It” is a power pop fan’s wet dream, filled with oh-oh-ohs and a guitar riff that comes straight from the theme song for “Kids in the Hall.” The biggest surprise – and clear highlight – is “Chick Lit,” which uses a bubbly acid keyboard riff in the break and a thunderous drum track that electronic rockers Curve would be proud to call their own.
This is not to say the band has abandoned the formula that has earned them a rabid following (in the UK, anyway). “Lethal Enforcer” has the same quirky, indie-dance feel that imbibed With Love and Squalor, only with keyboards, and “Tonight” will please any fan of “The Great Escape.” Keith Murray’s singing, however, is nothing like his work on Squalor. Using the higher end of his range and layer upon layer of vocals has expanded the band’s sound significantly.
It’s tragic that bands like We Are Scientists hop from label to label after only one album, but perhaps that is by design. On one hand, it guarantees that you’re fresh in the minds of the marketing department. On the other, it means you’re musically homeless every 18 months, and each new album is essentially your first album. That’s a rather fitting analogy, really, since someone unfamiliar with We Are Scientists might think that Brain Thrust Mastery is the work of a completely different band than the one that made With Love and Squalor. Whether or not the band jumps to a new label for their third album, they have accomplished something here that will benefit them greatly in the long run: their music now has legs. Go, Scientists, go.