Memories of our youth: who doesn’t have them? The first game with our friends, that prank we swore to our parents we would never do, our first fight or even that little kiss that compromised all the imagery we dreamed of.
And we dreamed. We dreamt of the sky. That desire to cross the unknown, to be the astronauts who discovered all the galaxies and a few more, light-years away.
The childlike energy was contagious – and every moment was right to spend another cartridge.
In my case, I always grew up with one ambition: it was science-oriented – one more medical because I would have liked to be a veterinarian, and another, even more geeky, and which has always been my day-to-day life, computer science.
In the midst of so many zeros and ones, it’s always good to remember how we got here – and where they connect to today’s band, at the other end of the world, more specifically in Claremont, California.
It was the year 2005. I was 12/13 years old and studying in a public school that was said to be one of the most complicated in Paço de Arcos, Lisbon, Portugal. It was where I grew up and met some of the most extraordinary and cherished people in my life. With so much cultural variety, I got to know the most diverse musical styles: some more rock, others with the styles of their own countries and roots (African, Brazilian, Chinese or Korean music). We learnt a lot, both in class and outside.
We had two big courtyards where we played ball and did the typical kid’s games. Back then there was no Spotify and YouTube was still a mirage of what it is today. Music was bought in shops, listened to on dedicated channels or, unorthodoxly, downloaded from Napster or a similar client.
There was not 1 terabyte (1000 gigabytes / 1000000 megabytes) of memory available. The devices were small, many of them without screens, and if they had 4 gigabytes (4000 megabytes) we were already kings of our room.
We transferred music, many of them by mistake, others with quality below 320kbps because what mattered was the quantity that was put on those small devices.
And we shared with each other, in those fifteen minutes between classes, what we had discovered the day before and that we thought was, to paraphrase Olivia Rodrigo, “Brutal”.
As I had a tremendous passion for video games, many of the songs I was listening to appeared in their soundtracks. And one of them came from We Are Scientists, and it’s called “The Great Escape”.
The game was called Burnout Revenge. It was a car game, with linear sections where the objective was to reach the end of the track in the first place. Until then, you had to destroy everything and everyone in any way you could.
And the music matched the frenetic pace of the video game unmistakably. Addictive. Addictive to the point that it introduced me to one of my favourite records – and the band’s first, “With Love And Squalor”.
The boom was deafening: it was everywhere in Portugal. Even those who didn’t know anything about it recognized some of the band’s rhythms.
One of the most recognised programmes of our youth in Portugal, Curto Circuito, broadcast “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt” every day. And it was so memorable that I recently showed the song to my mother, who easily recognised it.
The record was so striking that, when I recently started collecting vinyl, it was the first record I bought. It’s right here next to me – and it doesn’t fool me because it’s the most well cared for on my bookshelf.
With eight more years to go and me coming out of my so-called adolescence, they returned to Portugal for a concert at Super Bock Super Rock, in Meco. They played on the last day, with renowned bands like Queens of The Stone Age, Ash, Gary Clark Jr. and !!! (chk chk chk). Arctic Monkeys, Azealia Banks, Johnny Marr, TOY, Efterklang, The Killers, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Kaiser Chiefs and Tomahawk also performed at that festival.
The concert was small to the point that I couldn’t even find it on setlist.fm, my starting point to remember the best concerts of my life.
I was in the front row, ready to give all my energy for one of the bands that most marked my transition from child to teenager. I jumped, I screamed, I vibrated: We Were Scientists for forty-five minutes, and everyone who was there used up all their batteries.
I always tell them it was wonderful – and I’m really sorry I didn’t see them again. If not in Portugal, I’ll have to go out there, but that feeling will have to happen again.
Keith Murray and Chris Cain, two of the fathers of Indie-Rock and who revolutionised this style with innovative non-stop rhythms, so long after they continue to influence our imagination, met in 1997 while attending Pomona College in Claremont, California.
In 1999 they moved to Berkeley, California, where they began to mull over the idea of forming a band. From scientist to scientist, the idea was clear: We Are Scientists was definitely the perfect band name.
Many adventures and concerts later, we arrived in 2021. And this is where we meet Huffy.
It’s the Americans’ seventh studio album, and nothing better than returning to the original formula that characterises them so much: creativity, irreverence, frenetic rhythms that don’t leave our heads and lots and lots of rock n’roll.
We are bombarded with ten songs, separated by thirty-four minutes.
“You’ve Lost Your Shit” is just that: a way to rock with all the soul of the band, with guitar, bass and drums always pumping. This is what we paid a ticket for – and this is what we’ll be shaking our heads about with.
We keep the original record, always with a personal touch on the world around us: and this is where we get into “Contact High”. The guitar doesn’t stop, and Keith’s dialect is easily accessible to everything and everyone: we’re back to our youth, with that supersonic rhythm that’s impossible to control.
With social media on the rampage, we get to “Handshake Agreement” – and constructive criticism from the band about how networks have reduced the live dialogue, with their own opinions and less formatting of ideas, where everyone gets upset because we only find the good or bad side of the story we want to tell/hear. We still remember a few days ago when Mark Zuckerberg’s servers went down and we couldn’t even send a text message, right? That was so 00′.
In the middle of a pandemic – but with their hair always neatly trimmed – Keith and Chris decided to turn to the mirror to change their style in a…radical way. All this while riffs are blasted effusively into our heads. I’m talking about “I Cut My Own Hair” They cut their own hair. I’d rather not risk it, but I’ll be ordering this soundtrack as they shave my head tomorrow.
In a ballad tone, more dreamy and less gaudy, we find “Just Education” and “Sentimental Education”. It makes us think about our life and all that it represents. But always in a fun way.
Guitar riffs, a vocal falsetto like no one else and drums of those that we just feel like wagging our fingers like big people, we have “Fault Lines”. Britain’s band Royal Blood would be proud to see this mesh playing on their favourite radio station.
“Pandemonium” was also the name of a fancy video game from the 90s, but in this case it’s We Are Scientists’ way of showing that it’s possible to innovate even while maintaining the same rhythmic line-up as the last sixteen years. For early adopters and those just starting out.
But they can also reinvent themselves, and that’s where we hit “Bought Myself a Grave” and the most country version of the band. But, mind you, the country meets groovy manners version, because towards the end we’re already dancing to the sound of this storyline. For a moment I remembered Courage, the cowardly dog: and his house in the middle of nowhere, where everything happened.
We close with “Behavior Unbecoming”, where verses like “Is it okay to admit that I should be worried? // Because this behaviour is nothing, if not unbecoming // Is relief going to come when we lеast expect it // Or are wе leaving ourselves out here unprotected” set us reflecting about our life.
The last sixteen years of our lives have passed us by in the blink of an eye. We thought we were scientists – and now We Are Scientists. We smiled, we danced and we screamed. The American band went back to their roots and brought what we needed: them, in the most beautiful and natural way in the world. A WtMM recommendation.