We Are Scientists seem to be living up to their name in their recent experiment with Brain Thrust Mastery. It is difficult to understand what science they are more interested in: a political science that involves pandering to various music tastes and aesthetics, or a hard science of patient data collecting and theoretical conjecture. The former is a simple means to an end audible throughout the album; the latter is a hopeful and optimistic view of where this album fits in a future discography. Regardless of what inspires the decisions that made Brain Thrust Mastery, We Are Scientists takes the listener on a hyper-active journey through the what’s what of modern popular music styles.
Maybe it's refreshing to hear an album where each track surprises you with its blatant stylistic shout-outs, but this give-and-take dialogue loses something: this is the uneasy hedging of ideas into the confines of formulaic pop songs that subsequently swerve wildly between various extremes. There's the nu metal sound in “Tonight” that catches an uneasy whiff of Linkin’ Park without the faux transcendence of rap-rock, and the weirdly off-kilter “That’s What Counts”, that includes the charming addition of a melodious saxophone and crosses the line from kitsch to flat-out muzak. At the same time, it's ironically the only track that entirely breaks away from power pop, the one unifying sonic signifier running though the rest of the album. Too bad the escape had to be into the world of easy-listening.
In this melee of stylistic hyperactivity is the little ballad that could: “Spoken For”, which earnestly sets de-tuned guitar dronings to simple lyrics before the floor falls out and drums and ascending guitar sweep up. This is surprisingly unexpected, and right when the juxtaposition of tenderness and angst feels refreshing, the three minute ditty comes to a rudely abrupt end. Unfortunately, it's another moment when interesting music is compressed into stereotypical pop song formulae, and it's the downfall of the Scientists’ latest experiment. Too many beakers, too many chemicals, too many test-tubes, but not enough time. The experiments are all too quickly pre-empted by a pervading impatience to move on to the next idea.