We Are Scientists is:
Keith Murray – vocals, guitar
Chris Cain – bass
Andy Burrows – drums
We Are Scientists – TV en Français
1. What You Do Best
2. Dumb Luck
3. Make It Easy
7. Return the Favour
8. Slow Down
9. Don't Blow It
10. Take An Arrow
Running time: 34:30
Four years removed from previous studio album Barbara, and even longer removed from the commercial peak, We Are Scientists return with album number five, the exotically titled TV en Français. Not much has changed musically in that time; the line up still consists of Keith Murray, Chris Cain and former Razlorlight sticksman Andy Burrows, and the trio still make totally accessible indie rock music. The band is still full of charm and wit, as you can see from their live shows, interviews and the band's TV show Steve Wants His Money - that humour doesn't necessarily bleed into the band's music, but TV en Français is crammed with snug, well-created indie anthems for all to enjoy.
Album-opener “What You Do Best” is designed to inspire a singalong and you feel it will achieve that goal. Murray has considerable venom in his vocal as he croons “when I said that you were something else / I didn't mean it in a good way.” The first big track on the record is the bouncy “Dumb Luck,” that features some slick guitar work on the breakdown, a whole lot of frantic drumming on the part of Burrows and most notably, one of the smoothest bass lines the band has produced . The chorus is ridiculously catchy, and the track builds to a colossal climax – this is easily one of the best songs that band has written in the best part of a decade. “Make It Easy” slows the pace down, with a paint-by-numbers drumbeat and the slightest hint of a falsetto in the lead in to the chorus. The track suffers from a lack of direction though, and never really puts any ideas across. The wonderfully titled “Sprinkles” has another tantalizing baseline but not much else going for it. It's catchy enough for sure, but it really could use a little more bite from the guitar work, but then that may be asking for a little much from a track titled “Sprinkles.”
It's arguable that this is a record that succeeds mostly on the strength of its more down-tempo numbers, and there's no greater example of that on the inspired “Courage,” opening with a faux-REM bass/guitar combination and building slowly with a vocal that seems to be sung through gritted teeth. The track really gains tractions when the drums take over in the chorus, and it's one of Murray's best vocals in some time. At barely two minutes long, the track absolutely flies by and you're left wanting more. “Overreacting” follows, another rather bouncy number and more upbeat than anything else we've heard to this point. It follows the same themes of tumultuous relationships but treads water despite some interesting chord progressions around the chorus. The understated backing vocal on the chorus is the track's best moment, but it's a fairly pedestrian affair. The pace slows once again with “Return the Favour,” the other really standout track from the record. It's another great vocal on a track this time carried forward by the drum work of Burrows. The guitar work is silvery here, though it kind of fades into the background until Cain is allowed to shine with a mammoth guitar solo to close out the track after one final chorus.
In spite of its title, “Slow Down” is the most fast-paced cut on the entire record, with a pulsating wall of sound punctuated by ferocious guitars and Murray's insistent wailing. All the elements of the band's sound really come together nicely on this track, which comes off as something of laid back jam session that happen to produce a piece of magic. It's the sole exception on the record where the up-tempo songs reach the pinnacle of the slower numbers. “Don't Blow It” seems to pay tribute to the 60s musically, sounding a bit like an off-kilter Beach Boys, though I guess that's the California connection. The chorus is actually very catchy, the kind that would be played at the end of a TV dramedy as the protagonist delivers a life-affirming lesson and all the issues are resolved. The album closes with the comparatively limp “Take An Arrow,” that relies of standard fare guitar work and a formula that at this point has become all too familiar.
We Are Scientists - “Dumb Luck”
The 411: On album number five, We Are Scientists unsurprisingly stick to a formula that has proved successful for them in the last decade. They make radio-friendly indie rock anthems, the majority of which will inspire a good singalong and maybe even a bit of a dance. The standout tracks on new release TV en Français are clearly “Dumb Luck,” “Courage,” “Return the Favour” and “Slow Down,” though generally speaking the record fares better when the band slows things down a touch. Vocally, Murray is on point and from his point of view, this record probably captures some of his very best work. Elsewhere though, there are instances of filler material the likes of which you know wouldn't make the cut on previous efforts. While it may well be a sign of the band realising they're passed their prime, there's enough here to make you believe this is still a band capable of great things and certainly one that knows how to write a catchy as fuck rock song. In "Make It Easy," Murray sings "if it's not worth doing it right / let's not do it all," and while the band isn't quite at the point of no return, it's something to bare in mind before ploughing ahead with the next record.