The problem with We Are Scientists has always been that they're just too unremarkable to be anyone's favourite band. Sure, they've churned out some nifty indie beats in their time - Nobody Move, Nobody Gets Hurt and The Great Escape, both pertinent examples - but despite their best intentions, they've failed to compose anything approaching ground-trembling, never mind -breaking. That's all well and good if you're looking for staggered, upbeat indie to absent-mindedly tap your foot to - but it ultimately denounces them as a band with little replay value.
There may yet be scope for retribution, however; the third album from the Californian duo (drummer Michael Tapper amicably departed last year) sees them don their pristine lab coats and protective goggles to cook up something slightly more palatable than their patchy back catalogue. The results aren't explosive by any means, but Brain Thrust Mastery is undoubtedly their finest experiment to date, providing the glitz and glamour that With Love and Squalor was sorely missing.
There are songs here that are distinctly un-Scientific: Let's See It, for example, compacts retro fuzz, college rock and geek-pop melodies into a Nada Surf-Lite package, and the sweetly-crooned Spoken For wouldn't sound out of place on a '50s diner jukebox. The ubiquitous '80s influence rears its head, too, with the soft, hazy chime of Lethal Enforcer. Fans of WAS standards needn't fret, though, as there's plenty (too much?) of the samey, jagged pop-punk that coated their previous efforts, although they're a lot more melodic this time 'round (Dinosaurs, in particular, is a dark, disaster movie-tracking highlight).
Brain Thrust Mastery isn't the best or most cohesive album of the year, or even the best of the year so far - but the fact that the duo have at least occasionally attempted a different angle is encouraging. Someday, maybe sooner than you think, you'll meet someone who'll proudly declare We Are Scientists their new favourites.