Thrust your mastery of the brain

23 Jun

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To start off this review, let me implore you guys to pick up the 2-cd version, especially if you were into With Love and Squalor. In addition to the Brain Thrust Mastery songs, the live disc has three WL&S songs —It’s A Hit, The Great Escape, and Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt, which are different from the “under the sea” versions. Max Hart can be heard playing the pedal steel and it seems that Chris has gotten better at his harmonies. The acoustic version of Lethal Enforcer strips down the 80’s feel for a swinging western feel which also compliments the lyrics and Keith’s voice rather well. So for those of you bitching about how BTM sounds too different, chew on this. It even includes the banter and Chris picking up a phone call in the middle of Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt. Commissioner Cain can do this and pull it off sketch-comedy style.

NOW, onto the studio recording. What everyone will appreciate is that the album comes with a lyrics booklet this time. Not that they need it–Keith’s voice is stronger and confident, less reliant on pop punk stylings that were rising circa Safety Fun & Learning (released in 2002). Before I go into what I thought about the songs, I want to point out that the underground success of WL&S allowed the band for more experimentation in the studio. This was their time to take what they had been crafting on the road and give it more than just the drums/bass/guitar formula. There’s the buzzing synth on Ghouls to give life to a one-line chorus and the moody saxophone on That’s What Counts to conclude the album, but the song that really shines because of the instrumental diversity is After Hours. Organ, piano, tiny bells, crescendoing church bell–these are all sonic flourishes that make After Hours a rich and uplifting anthem.

LISTEN: After Hours

edit: I initially did not talk very much about the first track, Ghouls (this one is in fact Ethan Fogus’s favorite song), because the message is very clear in the composition of the song–this is the stripped down, this is the bare bones, they start out with this and by the time the album ends they have elaborated on the same idea in a different fashion. It reminds me of “The Ghost of You Lingers” but instead of being light and fleeting, Ghouls drags you down with heavy notes and vulnerable lyrics which invite an image of the narrator being stuck in a quicksand relationship. In fact, it reminds me of “We Suck Young Blood” more in terms of evoking a sense of dead weights on you while listening.

The reason why Brain Thrust Mastery has the ability to grow on you is due largely to We Are Scientists’ ability to pick and choose nuggets from different musical periods and integrate them into a style that is reminiscent of their earlier releases, such as the Inaction EP. I love the 80’s nod in Lethal Enforcer with the graceful pizzicato guitar but can also really appreciate the power pop feel of the following song, Impatience. Let’s See It makes me a fool every time I hear the New Order-esque guitar line come in at the bridge of the song; Cain’s fuzzy, loud bass ushers the song along at a groovy pace even though it’s a tad slower than what fans are normally used to from With Love and Squalor. The fuzz bass comes back in by track six, Tonight, but I find the arrangement on that song a little dull and the bass can only do so much to counteract those annoyingly ominous bells. Nevertheless, I noticed that We Are Scientists implemented what I think is a contrasting verse-chorus format throughout Tonight (and especially towards the end).

Spoken For is the softest track on album, but also contains the strongest transition of the album. I’m not sure how I feel about the almost-metal breakdown; it’s quite pronounced and almost ruins the song for me. Altered Beast takes it back up a notch though. This is Ethan Fogus’s favorite least favorite (to paraphrase “cookie cutter arrangement reminiscent of SF&L“) song and the drums really reiterate the pounding bass but could use a little less smashing on the crash cymbal if it’s not going to be as ferocious asChick Lit. Speaking of which, wow, what a ridiculous cock rock feel to this tune. Remember Ram It Home? Chick Lit is all that, add clapping, muffled crowd shouts, flaring guitars and a funky bass that makes a pronounced appearance right before the chorus at the end the song. Well, I still like Ram It Home better, but seeing as Chick Lit is full of surreptitious death threats, I can’t be surprised if it varies from the hormone-ranging aesthetics of Ram it Home.

LISTEN: Chick Lit

Dinosaurs is a bit acoustically constrained, but I do like the part where Keith sings that “Soon it will come and pass us by/The shifting tones and the rising tide/We’ll learn to swim or learn to die/Be cast in stone or cast aside.” He weaves poetic elements to a this-or-that logic throughout the album which I really appreciate. The last track, That’s What Counts, initially put me off because I heard it and thought, “Wtf? R&B? uhhhh…” Nevertheless, the lilting vocals can’t help but make me want to sing along. Unfortunately I won’t be able to sing along to these live because I’ll be in Kansas City while they play Pittsburgh on August 11th (@ Diesel w/ Oxford Collapse), but if We Are Scientists keep up their fastidious pace I’m sure that I’ll see them again soon.

BUYING:

I wouldn’t buy the sketchy two disc versions off of Amazon that are under 20 bucks…will have more information up about the this. Insound.com pretty much has the best deal on the album itself at $12.99.

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One Response to “Thrust your mastery of the brain”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. An interview, reviews, and Letterman next month « What’s the Word - June 23, 2008

    […] Thrust Your Mastery of the Brain An excellent track by track review of the album is here. […]

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