We Are Scientists – review

The Garage, London

From holding self-improvement seminars for fans to dispensing advice to fellow stars in distress, We Are Scientists are renowned as the ironic funsters of indie rock. But as the US band have had to cancel four dates of this British tour owing to problems with Keith Murray's throat, fans would be forgiven for thinking there isn't much to laugh about.

Even so, as they burst into Nice Guys, from their last album – 2010's Barbara – Murray seems keen to ride roughshod over doctor's orders to rest his voice. His nagging vocals take on ex-Razorlight drummer Andy Burrow's thunderous rhythms, before roaring through the aptly named Impatience. "Tell me now where the fucking fire is!" the singer demands, leaping about as if the floor were aflame.

Banter between Murray and bassist Chris Cain is as brisk as usual, too. When Cain calls the crowd "the best", a debate ensues over whether or not he's being disingenuous and ends with an eager fan, plucked from the front row, outstaying her welcome on stage. "Now we're just wasting the rest of the best's time," Murray comments drolly.

Currently working on their fourth album, the band play no new songs, but point to a new direction with a harder, rockier edge. I Don't Bite and Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt flourish under this visceral approach, but the subtlety and intelligence of other songs, including After Hours, is lost under Burrows's insistent pounding. Murray seems to shout his way through most of the set, and though his voice struggles to coo successfully through a sultry, sexy Pittsburgh, his gentleness comes as a relief.

We Are Scientists, however, are here for a party and that's just what they give the very vocal crowd. Even Murray is taken aback by the fevered reaction to Let's See It and encore It's a Hit. "You're amazing," he mutters repeatedly, the arch conversationalist apparently lost for words.


Betty Clarke

The GuardianTramp

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