Barbara introduces We Are Scientists’ new label and new drummer -- and a mix of the approaches the band took on their two previous albums. Joined by former Razorlight skins man Andy Burrows, Keith Murray and Chris Cain return to With Love and Squalor’s guitar-dominated style, but keep Brain Thrust Mastery’s slick production style. The band sounds more focused than they have before, which is a blessing and a curse: this is certainly the band’s most cohesive music, but Brain Thrust Mastery showed We Are Scientists could handle everything from synth-punk to jangly guitar pop with dramatic flair. That album’s strummy single “After Hours” feels like the template for many of Barbara’s tracks, including “Rules Don’t Stop,” “Nice Guys,” and “Break It Up,” all of which are bright and breezy with appealing melodies, but come too close to being interchangeable for comfort and lack the energy of the band’s early work. However, We Are Scientists recapture some of that spark with “Jack and Ginger”’s stylish dance-punk, which shows that the Franz Ferdinand and Killers comparisons still hold true. Elsewhere, the band embellishes a little on this formula with “Ambition”’s soul-pop and “Pittsburgh,” a ballad with lush, soft rock harmonies. The album gets better as it unfolds, with the bouncy, chiming “Foreign Kicks” -- whose title must be an homage to how much the song sounds like the French Kicks -- and the dynamic “You Should Learn” and “Central AC” providing late-in-the-game highlights. Barbara shows that We Are Scientists know what works for them, and even if it never quite breaks the barrier between pleasant and great, it’s almost always enjoyable.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares