We Are Scientists | Barbara (RED)

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“If you’re the nice guy, act like the nice guy.”

I’ve been a sporadic We Are Scientists fan at best. Oh sure, I sang along to “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt” when the band broke with With Love and Squalor in 2006. I even listened to their sophomore release, Brain Thrust Mastery, though I can’t recall a single song now.

So it’s a bit odd, really, that I find myself really digging their newest release, the oddly named Barbara. Part of what drew me in, I’ll admit, was the lyrics; specifically, the line “If you’re the nice guy, act like the nice guy.” Simple enough, yet something most of us forget to do. (Well, those among us who are, actually, the nice guys.)

Opening track and lead single “Rules Don’t Stop” isn’t the best song you’ve ever heard, but it does its job: gets the toes a’tappin’ and the ears a’listenin’. Next up, “I Don’t Bite” has something of an Arctic Monkeys undertone, a riveting guitar line with a jittery time signature.

Next up is the above-referenced “Nice Guys,” the Scientists’ first British single from this disc. Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about this song; my love for it grows with each spin. It’s upbeat, dance-y, high-energy; it’s made me a believer. If there’s still a plain old “indie rock” category, “Jack & Ginger” would fit neatly into it. The “whoa-oh-oh-oh”s are a catchy touch, making the song ripe for singalongs. Where “Pittsburgh” mellows things out a bit, “Ambition” ramps things back up, beginning with a rapid-fire drumbeat. This one, too, deserves multiple listens.

The Scientists take a page out of the ’80s handbook with “Break It Up”; actually, it sounds the most like their previous work of any song on this album. Personally, it’s my least favorite here; it just feels slighter than its peers. There’s a mysticism to “Foreign Kicks,” some (if you’ll forgive the unintentional pun) sounds heretofore foreign to WAS songs. This one’s coolly captivating; I can’t wait to crank it up on a nighttime drive with the windows rolled down and the speedometer revved up.

I had to check iTunes when this one came on; the intro is eerily similar to Big Country. I’ll give the guys both cheers and jeers for this one; they obviously didn’t do their homework, but rather nicely gave homage to a deserving band. Disc closer “Central AC” has understatedly searing guitars topped by group vocals, a nice touch and another new move for the trio. This one’s a racer; you’ll have to tap your toe a bit quicker if you want to keep up. It’s a great choice for the last song, though, as it ends the disc on a high note. Nothing will make you want to hit “repeat” faster than a killer closer.  

Though I’ve yet to figure out why We Are Scientists named this CD Barbara, I’ll forgive them that one oddity and recommend it, to WAS fans or non-fans (not-yet-fans?). While no song feels out of place, the range of sounds showcases WAS’s songwriting skills and confidence. It’s a solid listen from start to finish, and with a handful of really standout tracks, one that deserves your time and your download credits. A | Laura Hamlett

RIYL: Arctic Monkeys, Tapes N Tapes, LCD Soundsystem

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