Sound: Barbara marks the return of We Are Scientists stripped down energetic sound, with a new twist. The sound, while being vastly different and more stripped down than 2008's Brain Thrust Mastery, is in no way a return to the Indie-Rock power chord laden sound from their earlier work. What you get on Barbara is a plethora clever and fresh techniques that adds on to We Are Scientist's already hefty bag of tricks. It seems all basic guitar, bass, and drum components are fined tuned to perfection to sync with Keith Murray's melodic vocals without having to stretch into the use of too many other instruments to do so.
Think of this album as With Love and Squalor and Brain Thrust Mastery having a very suave, very mature child who is already attending college at a young age. You get the best of both worlds, and a little bit of refined maturity that seems new to the WAS scheme of things.
That being said, the addition of former Razor Light drummer Andy Burrows provides an extra piece of the puzzle in the rhythm section that's been missing since Michael Tappers departure. The new and a little bit more complex drum work is entirely welcomed to the outfit of the group and takes the sound up a notch.
So let's get into the songs-
Songs like "I Don't Bite" and "Central AC" showcase a certain energy that seemed absent on Brain Thrust, but rather than dipping into a With Love and Squalor sound, the pacing and precision of the guitar and bass play off of each other without the need for the use of overly repetitive power chord work.
The slower songs like "Pittsburgh" and "Foreign Kicks", while not as high energy as other songs on the album achieve exactly what they set out to do- Provoke emotion through slow melodic sound.
The maturity and growth in their sound is apparent on their singles "Nice Guy" and "Rules Don't Stop" as catchy instrumentals and hooks sink their teeth into your brain till you can't help but replay them.
If you're looking for the sound of either of the past two albums, you won't find it. But this sound is definitely worth a listen if you're a fan or looking for a new and interesting take on the Indie sound. // 9
Lyrics: Keith Murray wrote the album between staying in Athens, Georgia and Miami Beach, Florida after WAS touring heavily to promote their last effort. The product of this is a more mature reflection of social situations he's encountered along the way. He sticks to his standard open to interpretation style, but with a new more melancholy and aged tone, these songs feel more personal than ever.
"Ambition" is a perfect showcase of the WAS cohesive sound syncing perfectly with Keith's masterful manipulation of words. He addresses the decisions he's making, and the consequences in a manner that is familiar and new at the same time. You can tell he has a new understanding of how things effects him as he says a line like-
"Well my imagination is unnervingly inclined to working overtime/this kind of aggravation just seems perfectly designed to keep me up at night"
and his vocals are always delivered in the most precise way possible to pull an emotional response. On the other end of Keith's more mature take on lyrics, he shows an unwillingness to let go of certain aspects of his lifestyle in "Break It Up"
The slower songs act as a double edged sword-
The earlier mentioned "Pittsburgh" is a slow and more raw reflection of a physical relationship and the surrounding situation then what Keith normally provides. Throwing wit out the window, the hook does it's job with the words, "We're only after one thing"
On one end, you get something raw, but on the other you don't get the typical WAS style of writing. It's hard to really say that's a bad thing because it's how it was intended to be made, but it might throw some WAS fans off.
In short. Amazing crafting of lyrics. Amazing delivery. Original takes on some old subjects done in a way only We Are Scientists could provide. // 10
Overall Impression: I've gave this CD more listens than anybody naturally should. So before I rant about my overall positive impression. I'll drop the negative on you....
It's a short CD. Track lengths are generally short. Ranging from 2:18 (with Rules Don't Stop) to 4:27 (with Pittsburgh). Given the fact that there are only ten tracks on the album, that's a huge negative. Unless you plan on running this one back a couple times consecutively, the length will bother you.
Comparing it to any We Are Scientists project before this is difficult only because the intent of what they were doing at the time is different on each one. This is a new feel for a new year.(and I personally feel that the We Are Scientist take on music was needed this year)
Songs like "I Don't Bite", "You Should Learn", and "Central AC" amongst others, are sure fire hits and don't disappoint if you like the sorta Indie feel. Originality like this is hard to come by, so I highly recommend picking this one up. While you're at it you can pick up Champ (by Tokyo Police Club). Neither CD will disappoint.
To some it up- Barbara is one of 2010's best on the Indie front. Check it out.
-Cody Love // 9