International Espionage: Americans Steal Brit-Pop Formula

We Are Scientists new release is summer fun.

We Are Scientists


Released on Jun 14, 2010


Do you actually know anyone named Barbara? Not someone you know of, like Barbara Boxer or Barbra Bush, but someone you have actually met and been forced to ask if you can call them Barb. If so you are beating the odds. According to the Web site Behind the Name usage of the name Barbara in the United States peaked in approximately 1937 when nearly 3.5% of all girls were given the name. Since then it has declined to the point where significantly less than 1% of all American girls are named Barbara.  

What that means for the New York-based band We Are Scientists, whose new release is simply titled Barbara, is that hundreds of DJ’s across the country are now going to ask them who the album is named after. The reason those hundreds of DJ’s are interested is because Barbara is a really great album full of catchy hook-laden Brit-pop sounding songs. And it has arrived none-too-soon as beach weather is just starting. Bring a copy to play while you lay out. The sound is accessible enough to attract the opposite sex yet cool enough to separate you from the crowd.  

The two main scientists are guitarist/vocalist Keith Murray and bassist/vocalist Chris Cain. After three self-released EP’s the pair released their first full-length album in 2005 titled “With Love and Squalor” which sold over 100,000 copies in the UK. They followed that with “Brain Thrust Mastery” which hit number 11 on the British album charts. During the time between releases long-time drummer Michael Tapper left the group and was replaced by former Razorlight skins man Andy Burrows. In addition the group also added keyboard player Max Hart prior to the new release. 

In addition to being chock full of pop hooks the band is also possessed of a very dry wit. Their Web site contains reviews of various diners they stopped at while on tour including a disappointing one out of five stars for a Chili’s. You can also find an “Avatar” inspired CGI video explaining the private world of actor/gymnast Harrison Ford and a rather lengthy discussion of horse blankets. They parlayed their very British sense of humor into a seven episode television series for MTV UK called “Steve Wants His Money.” The series of shorts focused on the adventures Murray and Cain have when they run away to England because they owe money to a man named Steve.  

Perhaps it is that self-deprecating, dismissive sense of humor that has kept the band from breaking through in America. If there is one thing to criticize about Barbara it’s a lack of staying power. The album is really great beach music; fun, catchy and light but not much more. It is not anything people will be pulling out five years from now to listen to and reminisce about how it changed their life. Maybe as their careers progress, We Are Scientists will discover that elusive formula that combines their pop sensibilities with something that will make them more memorable. Until then, roll down the windows and introduce the world to your new friend Barbara.  

High Point

Lots of fun, hooky songs

Low Point

Pretty disposable. Not much staying power.

Posted by Mike Stern on Aug 03, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

we are scientists, barbara, review