Friday, January 30, 2015

We Are Scientists concert review: Riverside, Calif.

Humor plays a major role in We Are Scientists’ creative approach.  
Recent concept music videos saw them get into a series of gruesome mishaps and fight alien characters. They also did a series of comedic television shorts for MTV UK in ’09. 

Over the past decade, We Are Scientists have notched half a dozen UK top 40 singles and garnered regular college radio airplay here. 2005’s excellent “With Love and Squalor” album moved more than 100,000 copies. Fifth studio album “TV en Francais” came out last year. The solid effort was produced by Chris Coady (Future Islands, Beach House) and featured session drummer Andy Burrows (ex-Razorlight). 

During an engaging  65-minute concert Wednesday night at the University of California, Riverside, singer/guitarist Keith Murray and bassist Chris Cain did plenty of bantering between songs. At one point, Murray hilariously rattled on for five minutes (he’d probably do a decent standup routine). 

This gig at The Barn served as a homecoming of sorts for the Brooklyn-based pair, who both attended Pomona College - another school located in the Inland Empire area of SoCal. Surprisingly, the guys claimed they’d never actually played in Riverside before (that could’ve been a joke though).  

We Are Scientists opened with “Dumb Luck,” the first of five songs off “TV en Francais.” Murray did some spidery guitar work on the math rock-type number. The initial melody to the frenetic “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt” – among the band’s best-known tunes – drew immediate cheers from young fans. Murray shook himself all around while singing and playing angular lines. Meanwhile, touring drummer Keith Carne thrashed about.

A blissful “Make it Easy,” with silky harmonies, was an early highlight. Then some pure exhilaration came via “It’s a Hit.” Carne triggered the glossy keyboards on “Lethal Enforcer” and it still worked well live.

The drummer definitely proved his mettle amid the high “ooh ooh” backing vocals during a dynamic “Sprinkles” and elsewhere. For the dense alt-rock of “Textbook,” Murray pulled out all the stops: he laid flat on the floor, went into the crowd and stood on the drums.

Needling wonder “After Hours” found the singer ably displaying defiance and vulnerability (key lyric: “say that you’ll stay”). Come encore time, “Chick Lit” had people dancing as Cain got his groove on and Murray played guitar like a madman. Then another sharp dose of post-punk fury came in the form of closer “The Great Escape.”

We Are Scientists, The Barn, UC Riverside, Jan. 28, 2015
Setlist: Dumb Luck/Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt/I Don’t Bite/Make it Easy/It’s a Hit/Lethal Enforcer/Rules Don’t Stop/Sprinkles/Textbook/Courage/After Hours/Nice Guys
Encore: Chick Lit/Slow Down/The Great Escape 

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