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We Are Scientists

(13 Jan 2006: Icon — Buffalo, NY)

By the time We Are Scientists made its way to Buffalo, the hipster buzz had become a roar. When the trio descended upon the Icon, a sea of hoodies, worn-out t-shirts, and striped button-downs was there to welcome them—the wearers of all this uber-hip couture endlessly excited for the arrival of New York City’s latest super-hype.

I admit it; I was just as interested to see what all the hype was about. Sure, I’d been really impressed by the skronky garage-pop anthems that fill the band’s debut, With Love and Squalor, but the ultimate test for any band is their live performance. No matter how great your songs sound on CD, if you don’t show heart when you hit the stage, you’re no better than all those generic MTV icons and wannabe pop-punkers. And plus, from a reviewers point of view, it’s really hard to write about mediocrity. Of course, by that standard, this review is one of the easiest I’ve ever written. We Are Scientists blew me away from their very first note.

The room was packed, but there was still enough space to bop a bit. All types turned out: lots of older fans, early to mid- and-late-20s, and a few teens sprinkled in for good measure. The band, like the fans, was way beyond enthusiastic.

The trio—Keith Murray (guitar and lead vocals), Chris Cain (bass guitar and backing vocals and Michael Tapper (drums and backing vocals)—emits a sound similar to that of bands like the Killers and Hot Hot Heat, but manages to take it up a notch with more precise, sexy tunes. It was clear from the start that the band’s members know what they’re doing: they don’t execute the songs in the snobbish, holier-than-thou way of so many similar acts. Though they’ve conquered the stages of some of the industry’s most impressive showcases—SXSW and CMJ to name two—the boys themselves didn’t seem “imposing” at all. Instead of some reserved, robotic style, they blended their harmonies while letting their personalities show. The result was that, rather than feeling some distant sense of awe, the audience felt a comfortable connection with the men on stage.

The mesmerizing dance-rock melodies from their debut were well-executed, perfect sounds for garage rock lovers. The band played its face off on tracks like “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt” and “The Great Escape”. At points, I found myself hypnotized by the bassist’s lush mustache, particularly when he decided to start screaming about whatever was bothering him about the crowd—which was pretty much nothing.

Bands like this give me hope. They remind me that, despite what people say, rock is not dead. And its audience isn’t, either. The fact that people are able to move (and be moved) by this type of music is all the proof you need. This was an “indie” show, but instead of shoe-gazing, I saw people smiling and having a good time.

We Are Scientists functions like an indie act even though it belongs to major label Virgin Records. Maybe the record companies are finally getting a clue, finally understanding that the fans want real music, real musicians, and real connections. We Are Scientists deliver all of that and more. They know that we don’t just want another prepackaged band, brainlessly chasing some ridiculous “rock star” ideal. We want Scientists.

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