We Are Scientists: Barbara

If Brain Thrust Mastery sounded like off-cuts and b-sides from With Love and Squalor, Barbara is even more so.

Rating: 4.0 out of 10
The cover image of Barbara by We Are Scientists

I've taken a lot of flack in the past for liking We Are Scientists. I'm often derided by my close friends when I mention in conversation that I think With Love and Squalor is a great album. It's an opinion I still stand by, but it's increasingly the case that when I talk about it I have to add a whole lot of caveats and explanations - "just their first album", "I only like their early stuff", "I know, I know; the new stuff is dreadful", and so on and so forth. I'm a man who enjoys standing up for overlooked records that haven't gotten all the respect they're due, but I've reached the point with We Are Scientists where it's just become far too much hassle to stand up for them.

I mean, they really haven't done themselves any favours, have they? 2008's Brain Thrust Mastery wasn't actually a bad album as such, but it certainly wasn't a good one either (edit: I've since been won round by Brain Thrust Mastery and like it much more now...). After Hours was a nice single, Impatience had a great video, and Spoken For harkened back to some of the softer moments from their (major label) debut, but nothing on there came even close to setting the world alight. It was clear by this point that I liked the idea of We Are Scientists far more that I liked the actual music; they look really cool, the overall sound gives off an air of thoughtful, studied nonchalance and they give the impression that I'd really like them if we were to meet in the pub.

Now, with this year's new album Barbara on the scene, I've given up entirely. If Brain Thrust Mastery sounded like off-cuts and b-sides from With Love and Squalor, Barbara is even more so. To my ears there has been absolutely no sonic development whatsoever since their debut. BTM added some acoustic guitars and synths to the mix, but the songwriting, both on BTM and now with Barbara, seemed to be coming from exactly the same place as their previous work. I'm all in favour of consistency, and if they'd made two new LPs at the standard of WLaS then they'd most likely be one of my favourite bands by now, but sadly it's looking ever more likely that their first record was a flash in the pan, a one off never to be repeated.

I almost feel bad including mp3s with this post; it's just so bland. It feels half-baked, underdeveloped; only half the tracks on this LP manage to survive past the three minute mark, and most only by a whisker, and rather than feeling like a focused record this album drifts and meanders without much purpose. But, (and this will probably be the last time I can be bother to stick my neck out and say this) go and listen to With Love and Squalor; it's a paragon of indie-pop that's absolutely stuffed with great songs.

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