It’s a cold, cold night in Birmingham, even inside the usually toasty (and rather excellent) O2 Institute 2, where tonight LA/Brooklyn legends We Are Scientists are dropping by to promote their 7th studio album, the gloriously tuneful Huffy. They have made the excellent decision to bring Coach Party along for the ride (poor quality pun intended), though they have made the slightly easier journey from the Isle Of Wight, rather than across the Atlantic.
The band’s music and indeed personality is a perfect fit for the We Are Scientists’ ‘special guests’ role, and they deliver a very well received set of premium indie pop. Such is the strength of Coach Party’s material, they are confident enough to throw in single of the year contender ‘Everybody Hates Me’ as their second song, while the headline act looks on approvingly from the wings. If an album appears in 2022, be ready to see it featuring on a lot of ‘end of year’ lists, on the evidence of tonight. Anyone wandering in unawares would be forgiven for thinking they were watching the headliners, such is the audience’s warmth towards the band (despite the previously mentioned arctic conditions).
Now, have you ever been to see a band who spend five minutes debating what form of exercise would warm up their bassist sufficiently to remove his jumper? Or discussing the state of the crops this year? No? Then maybe try to make a date with We Are Scientists at some point, as they cover all this and more. They have been putting out fabulous records now for almost 20 years, with the current one arguably receiving the most praise of a WAS record for many a year – it pretty much sounds like a collection of ten singles.
The sound is loud but wonderfully clear and sometimes with all of the genuinely hilarious inter-song discussions and observations between the band’s core members, Keith Murray (guitar, vocals) and Chris Cain (bass, vocals), it’s easy to forget how good they are at their jobs; Murray would perhaps rarely be mentioned in debates about great guitarists, for instance, but he is a superb and energetic player and We Are Scientists have a LOT of hits, almost-hits and should-have-been-hits to choose from these days. In a set drawing nicely from all but one of their albums, they flit pleasingly around their catalogue, appearing on stage to the strains of Aerosmith’s ‘I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing’ and launching into Huffy highlight ‘You’ve Lost Your Shit’, rolling effortlessly into the 16 year old ‘Inaction’ and chucking in the wonderful ‘Chick Lit’ (from 2008’s potentially best WAS album, Brain Thrust Mastery).
We Are Scientists are one of those trios (Murray and Cain are augmented these days by drummer Keith Carne) whose sound is so full that you wonder why any other bands have more than three members. The underrated Megaplex (from 2018) is pleasingly represented by three songs; ‘Your Light Has Changed’ again bringing Murray’s crunchy guitar to the fore, while ‘KIT’ is more introspective.
If you are wondering, Cain’s jumper lasts 25 minutes or so, and he boasts that he has ‘enough layers on for a six hour show’, as a kindly security guard is regularly handing out ice cold waters to the front row, as if they are sweltering at Coachella.
All the With Love And Squalor hits are present and correct (the band have an unusual UK chart record of five Top 40 hits, but no singles at all in the 41-100 range!), ‘It’s A Hit’, ‘Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt’ and ‘The Great Escape’ fairly bringing down the house as Coach Party return the earlier favour and also watch from the side of the stage. The 2010 Barbara album is possibly the one closest to the current album in terms of it being full of short, sharp, catchy pop songs and it is represented by the stupendously great singles ‘Rules Don’t Stop’ and later, as the final encore, ‘Nice Guys’.
In between times, the anthemic ‘After Hours’ closes the main set, and the four song encore (the band offer one song, and open some negotiations with the audience who ask for two, so quite a result!) includes the countryish ‘Bought Myself A Grave’ from the new album, which affords Cain a song on lead vocals.
In these uncertain and somewhat dark days, a gig from We Are Scientists and Coach Party puts smiles on a lot of Birmingham faces. A truly uplifting and, if I can use the term, feel good night.