We Are Scientists take us through new album ‘Lobes’

The band’s Keith Murray gives us a track-by-track run-through of their latest LP.

Released today, 20th January, We Are Scientists are giving us a track-by-track run-through of their brand new album ‘Lobes’.

“Lobes is the name of a cereal of black spheres invented by Chris Cain (don’t ask),” the band’s Keith Murray explains. “Obviously, the record has little to do with breakfast, but I loved the associations that the word has with cerebral biology, and the evocation of sci-fi, and a sense of something both fundamentally human and utterly unknowable. The word ‘lobes’ makes me think of the body horror films of David Cronenberg, but also of the chatty comedies of manners of Whit Stillman. I really love the reaction it evokes in people: everybody knows the word ‘lobes’, but for whatever reason, being challenged to define it consistently scares them, or angers them, or makes them laugh, or makes them tell me to ‘shut up.’ What a great reaction to such a benign word. It’s also pretty fun to say. Lobes.”

Stick on their new record below, and check out Keith’s track-by-track now.

Operator Error

I think of this song as the bridge between ‘Huffy’, our last, more “guitar rock”-focused record, and ‘Lobes’, which features more electronic, synth-based dance-rock songs. We’d written ‘Operator Error’ along with the batch of songs that became ‘Huffy’, but it never quite seemed to fit on a record with those other tunes. It’s the first time we’d actively held onto a song to release later on, and it became the bellwether for the rest of ‘Lobes’. That’s why it opens the album – to help usher the listener seamlessly into this (slightly) new territory. I mean, it’s still just a danceable banger full of big hooks and grotesquely distorted guitars, so I guess it doesn’t actually represent that huge a departure for us, but it helped give us the beginnings of a blueprint for the rest of the album.

Dispense With Sentiment

I’ve noticed that, on this record, a lot of my lyrics obsess over my reticence to take action. I mean, that’s not a particularly new character flaw of mine. ‘Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt’ is a direct appeal for someone else to make the first move, so, yeah, I’ve been this way for a long time. ‘Dispense With Sentiment’ is, at least, a step toward being slightly more pro-active. It’s very typical of me, though, to consider a song that’s purely talking about talking – about having a conversation that sets the conditions for another, different, upcoming conversation – as a big step forward in my effort to be more emotionally proactive.

Anyway, the bass part on this song totally rips. When we play it live, we should just have a spotlight on Chris as he stands there, tearing this mid-tempo brooder to shreds.

Human Resources

When we make an album, there’s always one song that feels like the most triumphant bolt of creative lightning that’s ever struck us, a song that makes us regard ourselves as utter geniuses who should have our statues erected in libraries and on university quads and public beaches around the world. For ‘Lobes’, that song was ‘Human Resources’. It was an early favorite for all of us, and it remains (drummer) Keith Carne’s favorite We Are Scientists song of all time. I suppose it’s either a testament to the strength of the rest of the album that our record label was able to choose five other songs to release as singles rather than ‘Human Resources’, or maybe it just means that we, as a band, are simply not very good at being our own A&R team.

Lucky Just To Be Here

Despite my generally high levels of neuroses, I tend to be a pretty optimistic guy. I truly hate complaining, I avoid confrontation at all costs, and I’m strongly disposed toward assessing situations with a “glass half-full” perspective. There’s this one Tolstoy story about a peasant guy who’s pretty much been dealt a truly thankless lot in life – his employers work him incessantly, his family regards him only as a paycheck, everyone conspires to thwart his one shot at love – but he bears it all with an actively sunny attitude. I feel a lot of connection to this feckless idiot; I pretty much picture him as myself throughout the story, even after he (spoiler alert) falls off a roof, cheerily declares that he’s all right, and then promptly dies. Anyway, ‘Lucky Just To Be Here’ captures a lot of that sensibility of mine – life is a gift, and even fleeting glimpses of love feel like emotional supernovas, and even if toil doesn’t always pay off, I feel fortunate to at least have been through it, at all.

Turn It Up

I think of We Are Scientists as a pretty feel-good band. Our shows are straight-up parties, our albums are (mostly) designed to communicate maximum pleasure, and our public persona can veer dangerously toward the “court jester” edge of the entertainment spectrum. That said, even I initially worried that ‘Turn It Up ‘was too much fun, too simplistic in its optimism, too bent on demanding that a dance party spontaneously break out, when it’s played. Even with those little bits of lyrical anxiety creeping around the verses, the song is essentially an ode to a philosophy that I espouse but wish I were courageous enough to dive into without reservation – utter maximalism, all the time. Dionysian indulgence and unfettered extravagance. It’s a fun worldview to engage, at least for one four-minute stretch.

Settled Accounts

I’ve got a dirty-little-secret-grade love for funk guitar. I went through a big Kool And The Gang/Curtis Mayfield/Parliament Funkadelic phase in my late teens, mainly because I attended a liberal arts college in California, where you have to like either acid jazz or acoustic folk music, or you’ll be expelled. Anyway, that funk DNA creeps into our music, here and there – the solo of ‘Nobody Move’ is funkier than most, and ‘Not Another Word’ nods toward that vibe – but we’ve never gone quite as full-bore funky as we do, here. Thankfully, it’s tempered with some New Order-style synths and some berserk Chris Cain electronic accoutrement, plus it’s got what our label guy calls our “best-ever chorus.” You can send counter-arguments to that theory toward Ed Macdonald at 100% Records.

Here Goes

Yet another song about reticence. I was really taken with the idea of writing a song that immediately precedes the actual action of the story being told and then ends without revealing the action, itself – just really focusing on that moment of spectacular anticipation. The sensation of being right on the precipice of something potentially earth-shattering is really delicious, and I think we evoked it, with this song. It’s all winding tension, and ends with a lyrical commitment to finally – finally! – diving in, consequences be damned. It’s like the end of Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid, except (hopefully!) without the whole “being gunned down by the Bolivian army” bit. (late Spoiler Alert!)

Parachute

A classic “it’s not you, it’s me” message, here. This one’s a weirdo “thank you” to those people who’ve ever had to stand around while I try to get my shit together and make a move. I’m forever walking around, living my life like an emotional disaster planner. When I was a little kid, that part in Back To The Future where the bullies from 1955 mistake Marty’s (very fashionable!) vest for a flotation device (“Dork thinks he’s gonna drown!”) made a lot of sense to me. The joke was on those dumb, soon-to-be-festooned-in-manure bullies, though – why not always be prepared for potential disaster, especially if you can look as rad as Michael J. Fox, in the process?

Less From You

Aw, man, I love this song. Just having to conjure it in my mind to write about it perked me up, especially after wondering if I should start wearing floatation vests at all times. A very funky bass-line, a super-dancy beat, a disgustingly fuzzed-out guitar paired with orchestral synth - please give that to me! It’s an appropriately jubilant music bed for a song about the delight in expecting the most from people and then getting even more. “Friends are awesome,” I guess is the point of this one. Tell everyone you love how rad they are, now, please.

Miracle of ’22

A producer once told me that listeners hate two things: saxophone solos and key changes. Despite the fact that this dude turned out to be an idiot, it kind of got into my head. I started really being irked by key changes, which was a problem, given how many massive radio hits deploy them (I told you the dude was idiot). Anyway, this song changes key every time it goes to the chorus, and, frankly, I love it. It’s simultaneously very unnerving and deeply pleasurable, like the films of David Lynch or Adam Sandler. I only wish that we’d put a really honking sax solo in there. The song would probably have gone to #1.

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