We Are Scientists

Brain Thrust Mastery

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Reduced to the core duo of singer and guitarist Keith Murray and bassist Chris Cain, Brooklyn's We Are Scientists successfully make the next step implicit in the new wave revival of the early 2000s. Think back to the original new wave scene, both in its original U.K. incarnation in the late '70s and the slightly later MTV-fueled flowering of same across the malls and junior high schools of America. Think of a band like, say, the Thompson Twins. The Thompson Twins released a pair of cred-establishing post-punk records before edging into pop with the "In the Name of Love" single and then the semi-pop, semi-experimental transition album Quick Step & Side Kick, which garnered that much more mainstream interest. So let's say We Are Scientists' full-length debut, 2005's With Love and Squalor, was their Quick Step & Side Kick, an album balanced neatly between indie cred and the sort of aboveground success that the Killers or Franz Ferdinand scored. So then what? Well, the Thompson Twins went all in and recorded the ultra-pop, glossy Into the Gap, an album designed for widespread American Top 40 success, and were rewarded with smash singles like "Hold Me Now" and "Doctor, Doctor." Similarly, We Are Scientists recorded Brain Thrust Mastery. Nonsensical album title aside, Brain Thrust Mastery is the new wave revival's conceptual equivalent of an album like Into the Gap. The first single, "After Hours," is a pure pop delight, the most immediately catchy song We Are Scientists have yet created and a genuine potential hit. "Impatience" would a solid choice for the not as memorable second single, and the goofy, deliberately corny dance-pop of "Lethal Enforcer" sounds tailor-made for the soundtrack of 2008's equivalent of a John Hughes teen comedy. There are some solid album tracks that recall the more daring aspects of the debut, particularly the abstract, dark-hued cool of the opener, "Ghouls," and the catchy and energetic "Tonight." But the rest of Brain Thrust Mastery consists of pleasantly tuneful pop songs that barely register with the listener even after several repetitions. It's not a bad record, and its best songs are certainly worthy of Thompson Twins-level success. It's just that in the long run, this gambit did that band no favors (quick, name one Thompson Twins song post 1984), and barring another conceptual overhaul the next time out, We Are Scientists might find themselves in the same boat.

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