We Are Scientists – Barbara

we are scientists barbara album cover

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I used to get annoyed with people who would take one album from one band, put it on a pedestal, and hastily dismiss any following work from the band because it wasn’t a blatant re-hash of the album they love. (See: Weezer, The Blue Album.)

But damn it, We Are Scientists. You’ve made me become that person.

As a three-piece band, We Are Scientists rocked it on With Love and Squalor. The whole album had a sense of urgency. Had it existed in the days of cassette tapes, my copy would definitely have been warbled from repeated listenings.

I had such high hopes for my dear WAS men. When Brain Thrust Mastery came out, I was ready to give it a good go. A few spins, and I found myself bored, set aside for the buzzing and twinkling “After Hours,” which got a small boost from its involvement with a certain Nick and Norah, and the dancey “Chick Lit.”

So with Barbara, I was a little hesitant, but still hopeful; I’d decided to chalk up BTM to a simple sophomore slump. I pressed play and prepared my ears to be sonically shot off by pounding rhythms, insanely catchy hooks and more fast-paced melodies to set off the guitar lines. I’ll admit it: I essentially wanted “With Love and Squalor Part Two.” I am officially that person. But I then realized that I was just in for more BTM material.

Rhythm-heavy opener “Rules Don’t Stop” is a good lead-in. You get a good feel for the album ahead — it’s an easy listen, but nothing spectacular. It’s followed by “I Don’t Bite,” which, despite a fun bass and guitar line, the chorus sounds a little similar to that of “Rules Don’t Stop.” It flows, but maybe a little too well.

“Nice Guys” adds a poppy bit to the album, although the chorus seems to lag after the verses build up to it so nicely. “Jack and Ginger” supplies some nice 80s throwback, thanks to the keyboard lines. This too is a nice pop song, and there’s our pattern — WAS seems to be falling away from that peppy indie-rock and leaning more on a pop inclination. The album then lulls with mid-tempo songs until the closer, “Central AC,” comes back with more rhythm and busier guitars. But it’s simply not a strong payoff at the end of the album.

Overall, I’m afraid Barbara just kind of fades into the background. It’s a nice listen, but not much more than that. It doesn’t demand repeated listens. It’s just not the same We Are Scientists as their debut album. Both in the band lineup itself, and their songs. I’m all for bands evolving, but I wish they’d use With Love and Squalor as a growing point. I want the old, kitteh-holding, bear-outrunning, guitars-a-buzzin and drums-a-rockin band back. I guess it’s time to let go and let the dudes move on to new things.

tags: barbara, we are scientists

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