The Brooklyn duo We Are Scientists are a pretty good singles band. And we enjoy their humor — whether in little skits or Nickelback covers. Thing is, they generally put out a good single or two, and then rely on their charm, humor, Keith’s dreamy smile, etc. All of which they have in overabundance. Keith and Chris seem like funny, nice guys. They’ve got charisma! It’s the formula that works well for Foo Fighters, except that Grohl is a legit “writer of radio tracks.” Brain Thrust Mastery, their second album for a major label after 2005’s With Love and Squalor, opens promisingly with “Ghouls.” It’s an intense, brief song with an upward lift, clipped guitar squalls/feedback, processed vocals, a constant percussive tap, and repetitious lyrics (“We all recognize that I’m the problem here”). It shifts perfectly into the poppier “Let’s See It” — not a great song, but a suitably bubbly, sing-a-long chorus. Then, though, we get the undeniable swagger of the album’s infectious first single “After Hours,” which we see as a weird blend of the Strokes and Mister Mister. We think. Some ’80s anthem we can’t place. Anyone? We should know, actually, because we’re already super familiar with that song via its beastiality and Jo Wiley versions. They also played “Impatience,” another of Brain Thrust’s goodies, that shows up a couple songs later. So far so good.
But then the boy’s blow their load. Come to think of it, the Mister Mister thing, no matter how inaccurate, kinda makes sense. Songs like “Lethal Enforcer” are full on lite-rock. “Lethal” actually has some hook to it (not the Dolby moment toward the end), but then there’s the sweetie-pie ballad “Spoken For” that’ll make the ladies weak in the knees (well, some of them), but despite a central crescendo, doesn’t go anywhere. “Altered Beast,” weighted with heavy buzzed bass, feels like an echo of a half-decent Weezer song. Or, going back to that ’80s pop-radio thing, “Tonight” sounds like the Faint channeling Tears For Fears, but with less eyeliner and hairspray and hooks. Later, songs like the capably boring “Chick Lit” or “Dinosaurs,” drive home the lite thing minus the charisma. Oddly, there’s a lot going on in each song — tons of productions details and sounds — but they more often than not don’t amount to much. Like, maybe when you forget you like the guys making the songs, their output is much less entertaining?
In the end, Brain Thrust Mastery includes mostly pleasant, workable songs with a few duds and a couple really fun singles. Like mediocre radio hits you can’t quite place. Think we’re being harsh? Take a listen to closer “That’s What Counts” and welcome the flash backs to you last visit to the dentist. So, yeah, we’re not sure how much we want to listen to the entire album … but you can bet your bottom dollar we’ll watch those funny videos a few more times.
Brain Thrust Mastery is out in the UK on 3/17 via EMI.