Their new wave crown turned slightly askew, We Are Scientists have returned with their airwaves-ready sophomore album Brain Thrust Mastery. Seemingly unaffected by the loss of drummer Michael Tapper, the dapper duo leaves dregs of the off-beat drum and bass assaults from their danceable debut With Love and Squalor on their latest effort, yielding an odd taste of Top 40 potential.
Mastery, which was already officially released in three continents before its stateside release, opens with a promising TV on the Radio pulse that ebbs and disintegrates into the album’s oscillation between bittersweet gems, darker retro crawls and Hall & Oates flirtations. “Time means nothing / Say that you’ll stay,” guitarist Keith Murray pleads on the album's standout track, “After Hours.”
As “Impatience” squeaks by like the first cousin once removed of Brian Eno’s “Needle in the Camel’s Eye,” and the pop-rockiness becomes almost unbearable, your fingers might pull a subconscious Ouija hover over the “skip” button. But click they won’t. The Brooklyn band’s innate charm and accessibility allows forgiveness of its near-abandonment of bass-driven new wave. While a lullaby like “Spoken For” will spur rollicking crowds to take a text-message break, the last-minute swells of “Chick Lit” and a smooth-jazz finale round out a bubbly stew of pardonable radio-friendly tracks.