Listening to ‘TV en Français’ though, reveals that while assumptions of a continental concept record were a decoy duck, there is an unmistakably 60s vibe about it – part girl group and part cocktail lounge. This is not totally leftfield: the guys have covered The Ronettes in the past, and the artwork, as well as name, of last album ‘Barbara’ conveyed a chic Mad Men aesthetic.
So at its best, this is the sound of We Are Scientists on a vacation to the past - lazy, laidback and laconic. The hypnotic hip-sway of ‘What You Do Best’, and Murray’s gorgeously multi-layered harmonics make his trademark lyrical snark – ‘When I said that you were something else, I didn’t mean it as a compliment’ – all the more delicious. Adding to that is Andy Burrows’, ex-Razorlight drummer, rhythmic clout and Cain’s solid bass work driving it forwards.
Elsewhere, the simple arrangements work their shimmering magic. Like ‘Don’t Blow It’, or the cutely-named ‘Sprinkles’, where indie meets the Beach Boys. But it’s not all sweetness and light; ‘Courage’ is sparse and introspective, whilst ‘Return the Favor’ pulses with poignant melancholy, starting off slow before crashing into life with wailing guitars and synth.
Speedier moments feature, but miss their mark – and this is where it comes apart. Unlike on previous efforts, there’s no angular dancefloor hits, or even instant hooks. ‘Dumb Luck’ starts off promisingly with hair-metal riffs, but doesn’t transcend its ordinariness; its comedically gross video holds more interest. The frenzied rough and tumble of ‘Slow Down’ also fails to launch; it’s not terrible, it’s just not much of anything either.
No doubt, ‘TV en Français’ is more a more muted outing. But while they’ve proven they’re dab hands at writing a slower song, in the process they’ve lost the knack for writing a fast one. And sans the jittery post-punk innovation, We Are Scientists end up being lost in translation.
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