We Are Scientists, Tusk Lord, First Base

Jason Jackowiak

After a few weeks of drilling holes in your ear canals with gratuitous noise and such, we figured we'd take things down a notch and deliver some honest-to-goodness pop jams that won't have your cantankerous neighbor calling the fuzz or that cute girl down the hall avoiding you in the elevator like you have gonorrhea of the mouth. Disgusting analogies aside, all of our players this week now how to write a goddamn hook, and were there any justice in this twisted world, they'd all be lighting cigars with $100 bills on the decks of their 100ft. yachts that they paid for straight cash with royalty money from the CW or ABC or somebody like that.

All hail the return of NYC's We Are Scientists, who's new UK only single “Rules Don't Stop” b/w “Down the Hall” on Masterswan is damn-near the best thing we've heard all year, pop-wise that is. Though not billed as such, it may as well be a double A-Side, and thankfully, the duo (trio?) have largely ditched the cheesy '80s synth fascination that marred Brain Thrust Mastery's otherwise infallible pop chops. “Rules Don't Stop”, the true A-Side, is a bona fide smash that re-visits the spiteful power-pop of their breakthrough With Love & Squalor, and features an absolute bulldozer of a chorus that's every bit as good as “The Great Escape”. Flipside “Down the Hall” is nearly as good, powered by brash, breezeblock riffing, sidewinder melodies and an inescapable chorus (“why don't you help me out?”) that takes no prisoners. All of this bodes well for their upcoming full-length Barbara, which, obviously, we are dying to hear. Pick this up from Norman Records if you want in on the action.

It's doubtful too many of you have heard of Pittsburgh's Tusk Lord, but their debut single “Meeting Blood Sentinels” b/w “Snowblind” & “Mars Compound” on Dear Skull is a firecracker from start to finish. After a slew of small-run cassettes, this is the first vinyl outing for Mike Kasunic aka the Tusk Lord himself, and here, his commanding baritone, penchant for gauzy '70s production and sweet cream hooks are on shimmering display. There's just the slightest bit of lysergic glamour running through “Snowblind”'s veins, a roll of barroom piano and a simple guitar tacet butting up against a hazy melody thick with melodrama. Second B-Side “Mars Compound” has a bit of a Roxy Music flair to it, its minute duration crammed full of suckerpunch hooks and a vocal that lies just on the right side of weary. There were only 200 of these pressed, but last time we checked, you could still get them from the man himself, so hit him up if this seems like goods you need.

The four of you who've been reading this column since its inception may remember that we profiled Toronto's pop wunderkinds First Base a ways back, and they've finally returned with the follow-up, the She's Boy Crazy EP on Play Pinball Records. They're back with 4 more would-be pop smashes, which, this time out, find a bit more of a pronounced new-wave influence permeating their otherwise classic pop formula. The title-track is instantly addictive, as is “You're a Waste”, both teeming with more hooks than a tackle box and birthed in the grand pop tradition. However, “Back to Japan” might be the best thing here, with its lovesick refrain and gluey Casio fills and insistent strum, it ranks up there with “Nobody Makes My Girl Cry But Me” in their nearly flawless canon. This comes in a small pressing of 300 copies, but it should still be available from a slew of in-the-know shops and distros.

That's all we've got for you this week, but check back for some mega-sized updates in the upcoming weeks, and plenty of platters to herald the arrival of the grit 'n' sweat of the summer.

Oh, also, while we here at TSC are not normally the types to say “we told you so”, we noticed that over at P-fork this week they were losing their shit over the new Male Bonding album; the very same Male Bonding we profiled here in this humble column roughly 9 months back and told you were destined for big things. So, in summation, all we're really saying is that once every year or so, we know what we're talking about, and if that's not a reason to check back, what is?

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