We Are Scientists - TV En Français

Part girl group, part cocktail lounge.

Remember the Stella Artois “c’est cidre” ads, smooth with Gallic retro cool? One look at the title of the new We Are Scientists immediately brings that to mind, and it’s easy to ponder if Chris Cain and Keith Murray have decided to channel French New Wave for their follow-up to 2010’s ‘Barbara’: they’re zany enough to do it.

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.

Tags: We Are Scientists, Reviews, Album Reviews

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