Live Review

We Are Scientists, Black Cat, Washington DC

Never short on quick wit and humour.

We Are Scientists shows are never short on quick wit and humour from lead singer / guitarist Keith Murray and bassist Chris Cain. Their Black Cat gig is no exception. The indie rockers’ jaunty, jangly guitar numbers – now spanning three full-length albums – are interspersed with exchanges between Murray and Cain of entertaining stage patter. One of the funnier moments ensues when Murray insists the last time the band was in town, they were serving on a Senate panel to install Australian actor Eric Bana as ‘the Hulk’ in future feature films. This spurs Cain to begin a laughable ‘Bring back Bana!’ chant that reverberates through the club. That’s the kind of band We Are Scientists are. They’re incredibly good at making audiences howl with laughter and get them to do just about anything.

However, true music fans come to see the Scientists for the music. For over an hour, the band played songs mainly from ‘With Love and Squalor’, the debut album that cemented their cult indie status in Britain, and ‘Barbara’, the band’s latest album. ‘Barbara’ was released about a month ago prior to this show, so the band had the right to expect that their diehard fans would know the single ‘Nice Guys’, if not all of the new songs.

Disappointingly, this does not appear to be the case, as the majority of the crowd look unfamiliar with the new songs and don’t really react to them. A scantily clad woman who comes out of nowhere in the middle of the Scientists’ set and weasels her way down the front, proud of herself for scoring such a brill position, but she is entirely unaware that she is clapping completely out of step to fun new track ‘Jack and Ginger’. Amusing. Even stranger are the young girls in packs, wearing impossibly teeny dresses and standing in front of Murray. They may be too spellbound in the presence of their idol in the flesh to move a muscle or even mouth any of the words. Or maybe they’re there because it’s Friday and it’s an all-ages show? It’s too bad, because great songs from ‘Barbara’ like ‘I Don’t Bite’ and ‘Ambition’ deserve a better reception.

The hits from ‘With Love and Squalor’ and the band’s second album ‘Brain Thrust Mastery’ create the best crowd reaction. ‘The Great Escape’, one of the best songs from their catalogues, gets all the indie kids pogoing, long hair flying to and fro. It’s impressive to see the packed bodies busting a move. ‘Chick Lit’, with all its ‘ooh ooh oohs’ is another corker. During ‘Impatience’, two ‘tambourinists’ were from the crowd were invited onstage, one by Murray, the other by Cain, to provide additional percussion. Throughout the set there are a couple of false starts and miscommunication, but no one in the club minds. That’s because the duo’s ability to think on their feet quickly turns any of these ‘mistakes’ into comedy gold.

After a blazing encore of ‘Cash Cow’, Murray thanks the audience for being so amazing, which of course leads to widespread cheers. According to Chris Cain, Washington DC is We Are Scientists’s favourite of all national capitals to play in. One wonders how the denizens of London feel about this?

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