Archive | album reviews RSS feed for this section

Screaming Females’ Castle Talk

26 Aug

Screaming Females
Thursday, Aug. 26th
Replay Lounge, 21+

Screaming Females will be returning to Lawrence exactly three months later from their show earlier this spring at the Replay in order to promote their upcoming album, Castle Talk, which marks their fourth full-length release to date. The show in May was pretty fantastic, not only because it made me realize how much I overlooked King Mike’s bass parts when it comes to their sound, which Marissa Paternoster ensures to pack a heavy punch, but also because watching Paternoster play & sing live is enough to bring tears to my eyes. The integrity of Screaming Females’ live sound remains such that it’s almost as if the tracks are playing over the PA, but with more ferocity and bite. And you gotta love a band that plays a killer encore for a crowd of some twenty people.

Castle Talk, which blasts outta Don Giovanni’s rock womb on Sept. 14th, is currently available for pre-order on Insound, and if you get it now, you can nab a free Screamales poster as well. All pre-orders also come with an MP3 download of the album so that you can listen to it as soon as you make your purchase. Highly recommended.

Order Castle Talk for a measly $9.99

Track by Track Review

1. Laura and Marty

A pretty menacing intro rolls into a brisk bassline and steady beat as Paternoster’s calculated notes throw down the pavement for her mighty vocal range to run upon. Besides displaying the wonderful quality of the recorded vocals (crystal clear with a healthy touch of reverb), the track also reminds listeners of the band’s great songwriting control–capable of keeping it subdued but interesting, and knowing when to let go and burn hard, which they demonstrate after the second verse by finally bringing in the chorus, and then letting their instruments ring loud and free. After this, Paternoster launches into a twenty five second guitar solo, which I’m not really sure is necessary, but then again, when is a guitar solo ever necessary? The woman squeezes three times as many arpeggios in that interim than anyone else in her age bracket, that’s for damn sure, almost to the point of distraction by nature of being so badass.

2. I Don’t Mind It

The first single off the new album not only tones it down a notch but also adds a proper serving of pop next to Paternoster’s tasty distortion and expressive couplets. The rhythm of King Mike’s bassline holds this track’s head up high and proud, even when the Paternoster busts out a terse guitar solo for the outro. Once again, the front woman’s skillful timing works to the benefit of the overall musical composition–by knowing when to hold notes out and when to let them flood, she works out a balanced chemistry between herself and the rhythm section. On the other hand, the snare barely ekes out over the rest of the crew and at times the drums almost sound like they are just there to keep time.

3. Boss

In this track, the band takes a sensitive approach to feeling subordinated, coming into the song with a slow-release–drums setting the tempo for a somber bass, which is then layered with a wailing guitar that then goes into Paternoster’s signature guitar sound. However, when the vocals drop in, the distortion drops out in order to match the austerity of the rest of the song. In the second verse, there’s no guitar and instead the listener is left bobbing their head to the tambourine played in conjunction with the drum parts. In contrast with the beginning of the song, the end fades out a combination of all the instruments and a hook-worthy guitar riff.

4. Normal

It seems that swift fingers and strong lungs aren’t enough for the front-woman, because her rhymes are darkly dexterous as well. The chorus contains sarcasm so thick that it peels away as Paternoster sings, “I wouldn’t be surprised if no one wants to waste their time with me/I’m joyfully employed and normal.” The switches between effects also make for shuddering transitions within the guitar arrangement. I especially love the tail of oscillating bass note that Paternoster latches onto the very end of the chorus. The stark musical contrast between the chorus and the bridge creates an atmosphere of withheld rage that then builds up and brims over before the song ends. The brevity and beat make this one of the catchiest tracks off the record.

5. A New Kid

Hands-down my favorite song–all I could think was, “Fuck,” when I first listened to it. With its merciless hooks and engaging composition, it tells the story of a newcomer who has overstayed his welcome. Paternoster reaches record-high levels of creepy with her lyrics–“If I invite you over can you look me in the eye?/Because your head is a cavern and I want to crawl inside/I put some speakers in your ears and I stuff up where you sleep/You’ve got a whole lot of nerve to think that you can fool me” and “Let me travel up your brains, hang my image in your skull/So I can be the gizzard(?) in your nightmares from now on”–while hazy guitars and lolling bass torridly circle one another before switching from a stagnant mood into a frenzied chorus. The guitar solo after the second verse is especially driven and forceful, blending in nicely with the subsequent riff.

6. Fall Asleep

Not to be outdone by the previous track, this song’s appeal profits from a cruising bass and a diverse guitar sound that switches between psychedelic and grunge. Not forgetting to throw in a helpful dose of skillful guitar picking during the chorus, Paternoster keeps it slamming in the last minute with another lively solo before throwing down notes befitting of a metal musician. I can’t get over this bassline though, which makes the heavy tones surprisingly danceable.

7. Wild

If there’s one anthem off of Castle Talk, it would be this track. A sensitive bassline matches an emotional, yet not delicate, guitar part and vocal melody. The build before the chorus makes for a great transition, and the bridge heightens the intensity of passion before flowing from chorus into a third verse that utilizes an alternate guitar melody, which is quite nice as well. I didn’t initially like this song as much as some others, but I found that it possesses a lot of replay value and gets stuck in my head a lot.

8. Nothing At All

I thoroughly enjoy the guitar riff that occupies the intro and chorus in this track, and it stands out from the sneakily unadorned verse. The drums sound pretty sweet too, with some cool tom action going on throughout the song. It’s nearly epic when Paternoster sings that she “want[s] to be your late night crisis lion” and the instrumental part that comes in toward the end of the song channels some serious late 60s rock n roll vibes.

9. Sheep

Got to appreciate a song that criticizes casual, unconcerned promiscuity–“You count sheep with anyone/Yeah anyone would do”–quite bluntly. I’m kind of interested by that weird “zipping” guitar noise that occurs in the intro and unsurprisingly excited by the sweet bassline near the last refrain of the chorus and generally by the different measure of rhythms King Mike uses throughout the song.

10. Deluxe

A solitary acoustic track with lots of reverb trails at the end of the album. I can’t figure out if this is a cover or not, but it sounds nice either way. It’s odd hearing Paternoster sing in a tone that’s much closer to her speaking voice.

11. Ghost Solo

Thundering, reverberating drums start out this song, which is a nice change of pace from all of the other guitar heavy intros that dominate most of the band’s songs. I love the guitar melody in the short bridge; the listener is also gifted with a psychedelic guitar solo afterward. Once again, Paternoster gratifies with her diverse guitarwork. The only thing that dismays me is that the album has now come to an end…hah.

photos © 2010 Mahsa Borhani, all rights reserved


Bombay Bicycle Club’s Acoustic Album

19 Aug

Wow, so, what a wet dream. I’ve always really loved Bombay Bicycle Club (it’s a tear-jerking moment when early demos that kicked major ass turn into well-produced EPs and then a full fledged album) and after Evening/Morning came out, “You Already Know” was a favorite of mine (I posted it later on in my anniversary mix). Despite my heavy sonic leanings, I’m as much of a sucker for acoustic songs as the next person. I just saw this was out today (I know, I’m terrible with new releases), and didn’t hesitate in getting it–there is never a dry patch or stark moment in the acoustic efforts of the band. I suppose it’s also a pretty risky move to have your second full length record be completely acoustic, and I praise the band for believing in their strengths enough in order to make such a decision. I knew I’d fall in love. I know you will too. Leonard Cohen made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for a reason, so any querulous BBC fans that are critics of this release should put a damn sock in it.

I’m not lying when I say the acoustic treatment of “Dust on the Ground” might rival the original song (I’d like a little more bass via drum though). I also relish what seems to be the Spanish guitar styling of “My God.” And of course, “Ivy & Gold” is quite an irresistibly dapper tune. “Swansea”, the Joanna Newsom cover, is pretty good as well, though not one of my favorites. Utter beauty is my initial response to the title track. I’m throwing out too many superlatives right now, I know–deal with it. Fantasy collaboration? Bombay Bicycle Club with The Dodos. YES. Yes, yes.

Buy the album through Amazon
or buy it through iTunes

Why Is Keith Murray Confused?

18 Aug

When I interviewed We Are Scientists last week (check out the first half here), one of my questions regarded the significant change in Keith’s lyricism that’s visible in their current release. Due to several factors–unbalanced food-alcohol ratio, anxiety and decreased eloquence–I’m not sure I explained my point correctly, and in turn, I would like to take a second look at this now that I have a bit more input from Keith & Chris. Before I begin, I want to clarify some things in case this post gets taken out of context. Do lyrics truly determine the overall potency of a song? No, they do not. Do the lyrics on Barbara really bother me that much? No, not really. Nevertheless, when complex gets construed as better, which is what I think Mr. Murray has convinced himself by shunning his lyrics off of With Love and Squalor because they’re “whiny,” I get pretty annoyed.

Chris, who is the voice of reason, does admit that “if for good or for bad” the lyrics on Barbara are more sophisticated. Though he did not elaborate further, I did agree with him. Not only are the lyrics from Barbara more diverse in the themes that they encompass, but I imagine the way in which they were conceived–Keith states that they weren’t topics that directly related to him, so I’m assuming constructed from an observer’s standpoint–requires a little more effort. So in turn, the scope of the lyrics do extend further than those from With Love and Squalor and did require a touch more labored imagination to do so. But do these traits make them better lyrics? Absolutely not! The problem occurs when mere phrase construction gets marked down as being the means to improvement.

This isn’t a new misconception–this kind of faulty thinking is outlined in the study of causation (usually describing why most social policies fail to address the issues they’re trying to resolve, aka “correlation does not imply causation”), in statistics (in the form of a spurious relationship), and even modern philosophy. Richard Rorty, in his book entitled Philosophy and Social Hope (1999), goes into depth regarding this kind of assessment by stating why “moral progress is not a matter of an increase of rationality.”

Nor is what Dewey called an increase in intelligence, that is, increasing one’s skill at inventing courses of action which simultaneously satisfy many conflicting demands. People can be very intelligent, in this sense, without having wide sympathies. It is neither irrational nor unintelligent to draw the limits of one’s moral community at a national, or racial, or gender border. But it is undesirable–morally undesirable. So it is best to think of moral progress as a matter of increasing sensitivity, increasing responsiveness to the needs of a larger and larger variety of people and things.

So Chris wasn’t too far off when he described the lyrical success of With Love and Squalor as arising from an “[identification] with the grade of intensity [that the listeners] then apply that to a situation in life where they had high-grade emotion;” this is the increasing sensitivity that Keith so convincingly accomplished by writing from a highly personal perspective, which people then co-opted to their own situations. Keith suggests that because he removed the specifics from the songs, they then became vague and too broad to be viewed as interesting or holistic to the experience. I feel like he might have even caved into calling them cliché if pestered long enough by the wrong person.

Yet, Mr. Murray can’t be farther from the reality of the situation. It is his responsiveness to the environments present in With Love and Squalor that make the lyrics powerful, whereas the lyrics from Barbara read like an advice book for dealing with the tragically immature. Do some of the lyrics off of the first album reek of adolescence? Yes, but it’s hard not to empathize with the narrator because they’re themes that not only everyone has experienced in their own unsteady psychological growth, but also themes that still plague us when we face rejection, loneliness, petulant intoxication, contentious denial of reality, the detrimental outcome of pushing limits, or romantic vulnerability.

Don’t get me wrong–not every single song off of Barbara breaks away from the methods used to write With Love and Squalor lyrics (Jack & Ginger, Ambition, and Central AC are obvious exceptions) and not every song from With Love and Squalor benefits from the strengths of its counterparts (Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt, Cash Cow, The Great Escape are some catchy culprits). Despite this, a concern with jumping from exposition to overall statement remains a problem that plagues Barbara, much more so than in With Love and Squalor. Those few songs off With Love and Squalor with scantily clad narration are such high-powered tunes that all is forgiven–but the songs from Barbara which similarly possess a lack of emotional atmosphere cannot claim the same merit.

It’s true, though, when Chris argues that having Keith focus on playing beautiful chords suitable for a rhythm guitarist rather than fancy lead guitar parts is going to get people fussy and unreasonable. People like me, will then state that the band isn’t harnessing all their talent in creating a compelling album when they are probably expending twice as much of their musical craft and ability than normal. The fact remains, however, that the band has not completely compounded all that they have to offer in one album. They’ve definitely expanded their range and corrected prior shortcomings, but they still need a bit more of something before everything comes together in the studio.

Alright, well, now I should go use my college education for more suitable endeavors, like proposing a middle east peace solution, rather than constructing a droll argument on why I’m miffed by song lyrics. SORRY Y’ALL.

photos © 2010 Mahsa Borhani, all rights reserved

Barbara, track by track

6 Aug

So if you weren’t aware, We Are Scientists will be playing two of my favorite American cities soon with Bad Veins.

Aug. 12th
Record Bar
10 PM, $12, 18+

Aug. 15th
(w/ locals Satin Gum!)
10 PM, $13, 21+

1. Rules Don’t Stop

It’s their first single off the album, and there’s a reason why–the quick tempo, swift guitar picking, funky bass and vocal verses don’t play games when it comes to telling the listener what the deal is. Apparently Rules Don’t Stop We Are Scientists, and that is the extent of what we are told, until we reach the bridge. There, Keith intimates that the rules are meant to put a leash on unacceptable behavior, and he wants none of that. In fact, he tells the listener that breaking the rules isn’t a mistake because it makes us “so damn happy.” Really? If this song is meant to be an anthem, why do the lyrics make me feel so naïve when I sing them (which I inevitably do because the instrumentation is pretty catchy)? And the answer is not, “Because this song is not meant to be an anthem.”

2. I Don’t Bite

Every time I hear this song I feel like Keith might say “It’s pretty clear we’ll get along, it’s pretty clear we’ll get it ON!!!!” but instead he states that he “don’t bite.” My mind is not in the gutter; the clever syntax and rhythm of the line plays me for a fool, as if I should keep singing, and then there’s my freudian slip. Also, notice in the beginning that great finger slide action going on, reminiscent of Under the Sea recordings. Andy’s toms sound very nice during the chorus as well. Unfortunately, Chris’s bass isn’t written as perky as it usually sounds.

3. Nice Guys

I think this song made a good second single, because–even though We Are Scientists might not admit it–Nice Guys panders to fans of their older work by foraging back into pop punk. The song could easily join the ranks of Bomb Inside the Bomb, Secret Handshake, and Easy Kill. Chris’s bassline and Keith’s guitar also combine for a great harmony in the intro, outro, and during the chorus, while Andy beats the shit out of his kit. Keith’s lick during the bridge sounds sweet and continues the urgency of how much the band really “want it more.”

4. Jack & Ginger

If there’s one track off of Barbara that could get on a time machine and tell With Love & Squalor what is up, it’s this song. With the exception of the beeping and “strings” synth layered in the background, in addition to the guitar tone during the chorus, the composition really takes me back–especially when it hits that twelve seconds of frenetic dance-rock goodness towards the end of the song. Jack & Ginger also acts as their ultimate bar romance song to date, though Worth the Wait is a strong contender; this song is a little less depressing than Worth the Wait, however, so I give it the laurels.

5. Pittsburgh

The war-like drums and heavy bass set an intimidating mood for this song, but then Keith sings about sneaky flirting and that ruins it for me. What a “rupture in etiquette,” a real boner kill. I don’t like this song, but everyone else does so I’m not going to write about it. Before I go, though, I’ll slight it some more–the guitar parts are boring. The vocal melodies are too redundant. Also, the way the lyrics are arranged makes me think that the “one thing” is sex, and then I’m all “Oh cool. A shallow song that’s entitled ‘Pittsburgh.’ How disenchanting.” One positive observation I shall admit–this song would probably sound gorgeous if played acoustic, with just a piano.

6. Ambition

This track builds on We Are Scientists’ conceptual songwriting skills by imparting the slight feelings of discomfort and angularity referenced in Keith’s lyrics onto the listener, partially through skewing the pitch of the guitar during the second verse. Chris’s bass takes a sludgy route and his basslines during the bridge have personality. The vocal melody for the chorus disappoints me, once again. The syncopation from the verse just goes there to die.

7. Break It Up

This song reminds me of a continual obsession with video games by acting as the perfect soundtrack for cruising the world map with a naval battalion; it also rewrites themes from This Scene Is Dead by questioning partying if it’s not a means for “[being] up all night.” Bouncy basslines, solid drumming, and little “oohs” spruce up bummer lyrics into the most chipper sounding ditty. The fleeting bass during the chorus doesn’t hurt either.

8. Foreign Kicks

Shares WAS-world with earlier slow rock ballads like “Textbook” and “Spoken For,” but the guitar tone and bobbing bass have a sort of beachside feel to them. Yet, where “Spoken For” changes up the rhythm dramatically and “Textbook” profits from diverse drumming as well as a soulful chorus, “Foreign Kicks” remains as an unassuming creature and doesn’t stand out as much as it could when you take into consideration the talents of the band. I dislike the way the guitar twinkles during the verses and it really pains me to say this, but the vocal harmonies from “The Method” were better. The buildup to the last refrain of the chorus underwhelms me, and then the song ebbs away.

9. You Should Learn

My first thought when I hear this song is, “Why does the guitar have to play the same notes as the vocals during the chorus?” And then during the bridge, Keith plays the same boring riff from where he sings “learn” over and over again, even though I feel like transitional elements should be throwing something new out there. Chris’s bass and Andy’s drumming carry the whole song. With that being said, I still really like it.

10. Central AC

There’s really only one song on Barbara that succeeds at incorporating a great vocal harmony. Coincidentally enough, Central AC also displays the best of Andy Burrows’s drumming ability. Contrary to what Christopher Walken thinks, the triumph results from the three musicians’ concentrated effort at sharing the one hundred and eighty two second limelight, not from the occasional tap of cowbell. The pop-driven chorus, the vocal tempo change (“Hey, let’s take it easy for a night…”), and sweet shredding bring the house down. Hot. Damn.

Before you leave, check out this great live show review: Also, do not take my sourpuss review as an excuse to not see the show. As Abby proves in the link above, We Are Scientists are still a force to be reckoned with.

song reviews II

11 Aug

Smith Westerns @ Howler’s Coyote Cafe, 4-18-09
© Mahsa Borhani, 2009

Smith WesternsGimme Some Time // I first got turned onto these guys in April when they played night two of Totally Wired fest along with a slew of other bands. They were the first band to play that night (probably due to them being underage at a bar) and pretty much blew me away. Once they started playing, I couldn’t believe that four fresh faced boys in the tightest jeans possible could bust out some of the catchiest pop gems I’d heard in a while. “Gimme Some Time”, which is off of their self-titled LP, is one of my favorite songs, not only due to the steamy lyrics, but also cause of the rambunctious chorus, punk sensibility, and the very fitting garage rock sound. In fact, I don’t think there is a single song on this album that I don’t love.

Box EldersCougars // I have to admit, I’m constantly bewildered by Box Elders. First of all, their drummer is a multitasking fiend who can drum, shake a tambourine, and play an organ all at once. Secondly, they have the most bizarre outfits and do crazy shit like shoot flames during songs such as “Cougars.” Third of all, they don’t take them selves very seriously but somehow manage to make really well crafted pop compositions that are a force to be reckoned with. Their brand of rock differs greatly from the increasingly favored fuzzed out & distorted breed that populates the underground scene today–this is straightforward garage pop that serenades you with strong guitar melodies and jeers at you with an underlying punk attitude. Combine that with a few surf rock guitar licks and punchy bass lines, and it’s very hard not to break out dancing. I’m a little late on their game, having only been introduced to them in January, but these guys tour a fair amount and I’ll have the pleasure of seeing them for the third time in September. Check out their myspace to make sure you catch them on their upcoming tour–you don’t want to miss one of the most entertaining bands to have graced the midwest.

Box Elders @ Howler’s Coyote Cafe, 4-18-09
© Mahsa Borhani, 2009

BuzzcocksPromises // Definitely an oldie, but one of my favorite songs off of the Love Bites re-issue that effectively displays the incredible talents of John Maher to the band’s rhythm section. Buzzcocks have always been a defining figure in pop punk and “Promises” really depicts the level of imagination they possessed in terms of lyricism, melodies, and percussion. I think that Pete Shelley’s vocal range stands out on this track and has a certain vigor and emotion that is sometimes void in their more popular songs.

BricolageFlowers of Deceit // My first taste of Bricolage was “Footsteps” back when it was still an orphaned child with no album to call its own. I was very glad to finally hear the full length LP they released last year and also glad that none of their slightly lackluster demo tracks made the cut. Bricolage demonstrate a talent that is sadly absent from many American bands’ repertoires–harmonizing. The harmonizing is truly cohesive and deftly peppered in. I never realize what I am missing on some songs I hear until I realize it is solid vocal harmonies. You could have a good melody and it will just be flat without throwing in a tertian harmony or two; it’s why 90s top 40 pop hits are fucking great. With two guitarists, three vocalists, and really solid drumming, Bricolage stand miles ahead of other bands in their realm such as Franz Ferdinand or the eerily identical vocals of Dogs Die in Hot Cars. The chummy vocals on many of their tracks become more endearing with each repeating listen, instead of increasingly annoying, as I tend to find with other similar bands. This whole album has taken my fancy and there are a slew of other masterfully mixed songs such as “Turn U Over”, “Looting Takes the Waiting Out of Wanting”, “6th For Poet”, and of course–“Footsteps.” If you’re a slut for brit-pop, I warn you not to sleep on these guys–you will regret it.

X-WifeHeart of the World // I kind of forgot about this band until I accidentally stumbled upon their 2008 full length album, Are You Ready For the Blackout?, a few weeks ago. I first heard “When the Lights Turn Off” a few years ago and was convinced they were British and emulating the Klaxons or something. You can understand how confused I was when I found out they were Portuguese and had more embedded in their talents than just being able to make very catchy dance rock. I think “Heart of the World” is a good example of that; it not only represents an uncanny resemblance to The Rapture, but it also takes the weirdo tinge out of their sound and adds a bit more of a post punk and melodramatic feel to everything. The synth also accompanies their music rather well–slightly cheesy yet still appropriate as it maintains a continuous personality throughout the majority of the songs from their album. Overall, the album remains quite accessible to mainstream tastes–despite the band being pretty unknown in the states–and I’ve found it to be a good source for addictive summer jams.

Blank DogsOpen Shut // Blank Dogs are a diverse and talented band that I’ve criminally disregarded for a while. I missed the show they played in Pittsburgh in March, brushed off the hints I got last April & October, and ignored all the rave reviews from friends. Compared to their previous releases, Under and Under goes in a different direction with more centralized songs, a cleaner recording aesthetic, as well as a strong nod to coldwave influences. Basically, this is the kind of sound that shitty bands like She Wants Revenge are probably striving for. Blank Dogs’ angular melodies are somewhat reminiscent of the A-Frames, and similar to what Fredericksburg band Ceremony are also currently toying around with. I have to admit that the album took a little while to grow on me, but once you accustom yourself with their sound, you’re sent to an altered state adrift with oddball vocals, peculiar synth, and alarming guitar lines; together they form a soundscape which invokes feelings of nostalgia and despondency. “Open Shut”, in particular, is suffused with that kind of creepy, coasting-on-by attitude which is prominent in the band’s musical identity.

TV GhostThe Recluse // The only chance I ever had to see this band was completely ruined due to them getting arrested for drinking underage, or some shit, somewhere in small town PA, therefore being unable to play their Pittsburgh show in April, as well as a handful of other shows on their tour. Very unfortunate, for sure, seeing as their newest album Cold Fish bears that same brand of weirdo rock that tends to spawn in Detroit rather than the band’s hometown of Lafayette, IN. The first thing I got from this track was that it sounded so much like The (now disbanded) Arm, from Texas. The whole album possesses a horror appeal to it–mostly from the reeling synth, erratic guitar and dingy bass–kind of like what Human Eye or Francis Harold and the Holograms have going on. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a larger, conceptual narrative present in the album with more listens.

Pissed JeansPleasure Race // Pissed Jeans…what else is there to say? I have been anxiously waiting for them to drop a new album and when I heard “False Jesii Part 2” I knew we were in for something magical. The 2007 release of Hope for Men was slightly disappointing, considering the earlier standard they had set with quite memorable songs such as “Closet Marine”, “Ashamed of My Cum” and “I’m Sick.” Pissed Jeans have always had a gross humor that they’ve enforced with grating guitar riffs, grimacing yells, and fast bass lines and then also with slower, heavier, wandering compositions; I’m glad to hear that the drums finally get a more considerate mix in the songs. “Pleasure Race” remains as one of my top three favorite songs off King Of Jeans with the repetitive guitar, driving drums, and vocal diatribe that Matt Korvette is notorious for. Once again, Pissed Jeans embrace mundane subjects, contradict the socially acceptable ones, and turn it all into some sort of idolatry. In addition, there are a couple of surprising tracks on the album–such as “R-Rated Movie,” where the instrumentals sound initially uncharacteristic compared to earlier work. Nevertheless, the song then descends into a raging chorus that lauds blood, sex & violence–contrasting the excitement of all the action to the narrator’s seemingly boring life. Who else writes a song about this shit, seriously? So fucking good. The album officially drops on August 18th so be sure to pick it up.

NPR: best cd’s of the year

28 Jun

Take the Poll

NPR has put up a diverse poll on their website which ends at midnight, July 6th. Go vote for your top five albums of the year. Here’s what I voted for:

  • The Dodos
  • Santogold
  • MGMT
  • Hot Chip
  • DevotchKa

Elephant Shell was a good album too, but in the end Oracular Spectacular was longer and possessed a more varied sound.

Thrust your mastery of the brain

23 Jun

click on graphic for official website. do not harass graphic by using on other websites

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.


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. pretty much has the best deal on the album itself at $12.99.