On the Scene: We Are Scientists fuse rock music, geeky humor at NYC's Bowery Ballroom
On Friday night’s very special episode of When Indie Boys Attack: We Are Scientists vs. the Killers! While W.A.S.’ wispy rockers look like they’ve never thrown a punch in their lives (willingly, anyway), they’ve got a wicked verbal jab. And they were goofily gunning for Brandon Flowers’ crew throughout their 70-minute set at Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom. “Here’s our new single, though it’s not necessarily any better than the rest,” floppy-haired frontman Keith Murray chirped before launching into “Impatience.” “Singles are for the Killers.”
Huge U.S. singles have, in fact, never been a reality for the Brooklyn-based We Are Scientists, though they’ve gotten play on TV shows and achieved a degree of David-Hasselhoff-in-Germany adoration in the U.K. At the Bowery show, the band played like the rock overlords they could have been. After tearing through the dour “Ghouls,” off their latest CD, Brain Thrust Mastery, they indulged the crowd with the relative oldie “Nobody Move, Nobody Gets Hurt.” Here, the floor bounced up and down as fans gave in to the eminently danceable track, which boasts slinky lyrics about a discreet liaison. (Check out the “Nobody” video, directed by Akiva Schaeffer, of “Lazy Sunday” and “D— in a Box” fame.) While making Mastery, the band introduced the synthesizer into the mix, and they now seem enamored with their new toy. So Squalor‘s punky tracks, like “Inaction,” had a somewhat poppier sheen, and current material, like the infectious Moog showcase “Lethal Enforcer,” had inklings of OMD’s ’80s classic “If You Leave,” with a beat straight out of the Ting Tings’ “Great DJ.”
The epitome of Murray’s pretty-boy posturing came during “Textbook.” The singer leaped off the stage and snaked his way through the audience, tapping an unaware female on the shoulder just to say hey, posing for photo ops, spraying beer into the air, and finally situating himself on the stairs to duet with a Betty Boop-voiced onlooker. It seemed like a fit of hyperactivity, but he had done the same stunt the night before at the Brooklyn show. Yet despite the golden-god moments, Murray and bandmate Chris Cain are nerds at heart, and they proved it with geeky between-song banter about Predator vs. Batman, corporate domination, and James Joyce. (The book-smart shtick should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with their website, which features advice about such snarky topics as prom etiquette and baked goods.) With this kind of charisma, it’s a shame the U. S. of A. couldn’t have made more of a place for We Are Scientists alongside their Killers/Bloc Party/Franz Ferdinand contemporaries. At least they’ll always have England.