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Acoustic guitars + gags = top night out. Soho Revue Bar, London (February 20)

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An intimate evening without protection,” promise We Are Scientists, dipping their toes back into the live performance, er, pool. We’re in a burlesque bar where a transvestite club will unfurl within minutes of the band leaving the stage. The venue may suit the Williamsburg wits’ sense of the absurd, but opting to go acoustic for the night is an unusual choice for the first proper public airings of songs from their second album, ‘Brain Thrust Mastery’.

The new album plunges their former art-rock template forwards into mightily-chorused new wave, yet the songs are strong enough to stand up to the stripping down. There’s a widening chasm between the anguished emoting of the Scientists’ music and the surrealist goofiness of their persona. But this is a revue in the truest sense: a mixture of tunes that shouldn’t work but does. And they work because it’s spontaneous. “It wasn’t this intimate when I met my son,” quips moustachioed bassman Chris Cain on arrival. Second song in, Keith Murray stops dead to lambast an unfortunate girl on the phone, snatching the handset and telling the caller, “Do not call people when you know they’ll be at a We Are Scientists show!” The rest of the hour is peppered with cracks about how the tour is sponsored by 02/McDonald’s/whoever, and laced with subliminal messages to buy stuff. It’s terrific, but the worry is the gags run the risk of out-shining the tunes. And they don’t deserve that. Today’s a lovely taster, but next time, let’s rock.

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