It’s been over a decade since many of the UK’s indie loving public ignited their affinity for We Are Scientists; there was something about their dry humour and sense of irony that led to them charming the socks off many of us. Simply put, they felt distinctly British and that made this US trio particularly endearing; the fact that they knew how to write a bloody good tune or twelve was an absolute bonus by all accounts.
So much is this so that the band were (and to certain extent, still are) largely overlooked in their home country, the US were a few months behind when it came to giving ‘With Love and Squalor’ the attention it deserved. The album didn’t even get a proper US release until three months after the its UK launch in October 2005 and it’s generally regarded as a 2006 release because of that. Fine, have it your way America, but we remember how it all went down!
In truth, the vast majority of us were slow on the uptake with We Are Scientists. They formed in 1999, self-released a number of EPs and a swiftly forgotten first album ‘Safety, Fun, and Learning (In That Order)’ in 2002 before unveiling ‘With Love and Squalor’ as their debut of sorts.
The draw of the album itself was blatant. At a time when the charts were littered with dancefloor worthy post-punk and indie, Keith Murray (Guitar) and Chris Cain (Bass), along with the now-departed drummer Michael Tapper, had crafted almost an album’s worth of potential singles that could be blasted from your local indie clubnight’s speakers without being throwaway. ‘With Love and Squalor’ is certainly fun but there’s an underlying intelligence about it that has aided We Are Scientists in staying on the radar ten years after its release.
The bundle of energy that is ‘Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt’ kicks it off and sets a tone present throughout the majority of a record that leans heavily on the high-octane side of things. ‘The Scene Is Dead’ and ‘Inaction’ are the same breed of dynamic, fast paced post-punk as is the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it blast of ‘Cash Cow’, a number that opened the album on some advance copies of the album. It would have done much the same job, it serves as a prime example of them soundtracking Murray’s self-deprecating wit with lines like “Well, I’ve been talking a lot, I’m not saying much of anything”.
‘With Love and Squalor’ unsurprisingly provided two other UK Top 40 entries with the jerky ‘The Great Escape’ and the appropriately titled ‘It’s A Hit’ joining ‘Nobody Move…’ in the charts. They gained the trio a modest amount of mainstream attention but it wasn’t all poppy hits. ‘Can’t Lose’ and ‘Textbook’ are slower, a little darker and more reflective and back up the theory that We Are Scientists are smarter than their goofy antics often suggested. What’s not to love about lines like “Having every question answered doesn’t help when you’re not supposed to know anything”?
Perhaps the biggest draw of We Are Scientists is their compatibility in every sense of the word. The chemistry that Murray and Cain have, along with Tapper before his departure, on and off stage translates brilliantly on this record especially. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and gives ‘With Love and Squalor’ that unflickering lasting appeal.
This We are Scientists article was written by Simon Carline, a GIGsoup contributor