We Are Scientists, Barfly, London

Barfly, London

At first glance, US art-pop trio We Are Scientists look like rock geeks in the ignoble tradition of They Might Be Giants or Ween. Gawky and lanky, they gurn at the packed crowd. But this first impression proves happily misleading. Their recent single, the tautly neurotic Nobody Move, Nobody Gets Hurt has had saturation airplay on Radio 1 and MTV, and it's clearly just one weapon in We Are Scientists' arsenal. The Killers would, well, kill for half of tonight's melodious material.

Previewing songs from their imminent debut album, With Love And Squalor, the band specialise in frenetic power-pop full of panache. Cash Cow is as stylishly cerebral as Franz Ferdinand, with vocalist/guitarist Keith Murray jerking across the stage as if convulsed by high-voltage shocks.

Grinning through bifocals and a Ned Flanders moustache, bassist Chris Cain is a model of nerd chic - yet these songs are far from loser anthems. The raucously catchy Can't Lose could be the Kaiser Chiefs stripped of their mischief and coated in a layer of brooding New York art-rock cool.

Hirsute drummer Michael Tapper is a whimsical presence, rushing the stage during the support band's set and photographing the crowd during the rare quiet moments. Then the adrenalin rush of It's a Hit sees the trio ape Green Day, all punky riffs and staccato brio.

They close with the sparky dynamics and jackknife rhythms of new single The Great Escape, which may prove to be their breakthrough hit. Visually unprepossessing We Are Scientists may be, but don't rule out these pop geeks inheriting the Earth.

· At the Forum, Tunbridge Wells, tonight. Box office: 08712 777101. Then touring.


Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

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