It's generally easy to figure out which bands are coming from a genuinely creative place and which are avoidable bandwagoneers, but every once in a while, along comes a group whose seemingly questionable intentions are outweighed by a pile of great songs. One enjoyable dance-rock album could be passed off as a fluke, but With Love And Squalor's follow-up suggests that not as much guilt should be attached to the pleasure derived from We Are Scientists. Brain Thrust Mastery's 41-minute running time contains very little filler, and the album might be worth storing away in a time capsule to someday show how alternative rock has evolved over the past two decades. Once again produced by Ariel Rechtshaid of Foreign Born (whose Garrett Ray filled the drum seat here), Brain Thrust Mastery wouldn't exist without the '80s, but We Are Scientists offer up more than just retro-rock, even when they get as danceable as The Killers. Singer-guitarist Keith Murray still isn't painting a very sympathetic portrait, but his tales of drinking, broken promises, and wrong impressions are excellent accompaniment to music that's perfectly summed up during the album's finest moment, the soft-sax-fueled "That's What Counts": "We shouldn't think about last night / Nobody's proud of what they've done / Oh, let's not argue about what's right / Let's just agree that it was fun."
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