During the peak of the post-punk revival movement in 2005, We Are Scientists broke through in the UK upon the release of their second album and major label debut, With Love and Squalor. Despite hailing from Brooklyn, We Are Scientists became more of a cult phenomenon in the States, while With Love and Squalor became certified gold in the UK. Three years and one drummer later, We Are Scientists paired their post-punk revival sound with new wave synth-pop on their followup, Brain Thrust Mastery.
Barbara is a return to form for We Are Scientists, and the new album comes along with new drummer Andy Burrows, formerly of Razorlight. The catchy choruses that made the band a hit are as prevalent as ever, but the 80s nostalgic synths from Brain Thrust Mastery have taken a subtle backseat to guitar-driven pop rock. Like Brain Thrust Mastery and its Killers-esque single After Hours before it, Barbara occasionally sounds too much like the band’s peers rather than We Are Scientists. The riffs on I Dont Bite, while infectious, are interchangeable with those of a Franz Ferdinand single.
Album opener and first single Rules Dont Stop is essentially a reassurance to fans that did not like Brain Thrust Mastery that Barbara is a return to roots. The energetic pop-rocker is successful in both setting the tone for the rest of Barbara and also in confirming that the album is more of the same, but with a less apparent post-punk influence. Nevertheless, it is difficult to feel anything but good when listening to the propulsive rock of Barbara. Songs such as Nice Guys and Pittsburgh illustrate the bands knack for crafting a chorus and repeating it until it finds permanent residence in the mind of the listener. Barbara is actually its most compelling near the end, when the tempo is slowed on the alluring Foreign Kicks, and its straight-forward but relatable lyrics are destined to become a popular choice for a singalong.
In all fairness, We Are Scientists have always been a band more about catchy choruses and hooks than reinventing the wheel. While much of Barbara may have already been done and redone so many times recently that the album is now less irresistible than it would have been years ago, the band delivers on what it has always done best. With Barbara, We Are Scientists continue to remind the world of how fun rock music can be.