red lights


No new science from NYC
trio's dancefloor-punk-pop

We Are Scientists - With Love and Squalor
(Virgin Records)
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Mar. 7, 2006
We Are Scientists

Review by Tony Bonyata

Following in the footsteps of Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, Bloc Party, the Killers and countless other indie bands who've all made careers out of excavating the jerky, angular, guitar-driven dance-punk originally pioneered by Gang of Four, comes the New York (where else?) trio We Are Scientists.

On their full-length effort With Love and Squalor singer/guitarist Keith Murray, bassist Chris Cain and drummer Michael Tapper hammer out a respectable debut filled with youthful exuberance, spastic shards of guitar , angst-filled vocals and spirited, if not slightly sophomoric, lyrics. As the curtain opens on "Nobody Move, Nobody Gets Hurt" Tapper's aggressive attack on the skins makes for an enticing invite out to the dance floor - until Murray's punctuated, thespian vocal delivery takes things a bit too far. All is remedied, however, on the following number, "This Scene Is Dead" where the frontman's punchy voice melds perfectly with the energetic rhythm, scrappy riffs and immediate hooks. From here on out the tone of the album is set with songs built on adrenaline, testosterone and post-punk preening. In fact, the formula here rarely varies, except on the number "Callbacks," which flexes with a hard rock swagger and "Textbook," a dreamy, new-wavy ballad that nods to both Joy Division and their modern day proteges Interpol.

While far from new (this is, after all, the second wave of this style of music in the last quarter century) With Love and Squalor is still packed with enough verve and vinegar to keep things moving from start to finish. The only unfortunate factor with this style of dancefloor-punk-pop at the moment is that the kids are probably just about ready to stick a fork in it. Of course, when Murray sings at one point, "This scene is dead, but I'm still restless. An hour or so until last call, I guess. I shouldn't even be here," it sounds like he's already seen the writing on the wall. But, then again, you don't need to be a scientist to see that.

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