“Y ’know,” mugs Chris Cain, practically twirling his chemistry teacher moustache in anticipation of another knockout comedy roundhouse, “it seems like we haven’t been here for – oooh – weeks…”
“Now, Portsmouth,” chides Keith Murray, the Lou to Chris’ Andy, “we’re a little concerned that no-one has yet been kicked out for untoward behaviour…”
Eyyyysayisayisay, what do you get if you cross The Bravery with Look Around You, The Rapture’s most funky-trousered bass guitar, the humour of the average Oxbridge comedy revue and the facial fur of a ’70s German porn film called Whoresprung Durch Technik? I don’t know, what do you get if etc? Why, you get We Are Scientists – court jesters of the ShockWaves NME Awards Tour 2006 (who played this very venue – oooh – weeks ago), and the logical conclusion of all this ‘punk-funk’ business that’s been niggling the noggle of Noo Yoik Cidee since The Big Bang (around August 2001). Scientists indeed, these three warlords of electro-nerd have concocted the Perfect American Band, circa 2006. Method: mix 50ccs of Killers synth with a fluid ounce of Williamsburgh bass-bounce, a tumbler of Interpol ‘gloom’, a pinch of Devo jerkiness and a shredded script from The Mighty Boosh. Heat to 10,000 degrees fa-rock-heit to dissolve all traces of Sam Endicott’s alien sex swagger, pour into an unintimidating container so the emo kids will like it and, finally, add comedy cats. Result: jerky, jokey Band Of The People is formed, blaring out indie dancefloor hits so supersonic that Richard Branson is trying to sell passenger tickets into space on them. The deranged stampede over the bones of ‘Reptilia’ that is ‘The Great Escape’ and its punkadelic glory cry of “They’re breaking both my hands/They’re telling me to take it like a man/Well fuck that!”; the explosion in a ‘Hot Fuss’ factory of ‘Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt’; and ‘It’s A Hit’, in which QOTSA eat Foo Fighters and pick their teeth with their bloodied riffs. Conclusion: Portsmouth pandemonium.
“They’re good people; all those people crowd-surfing to their deaths!”, says Chris as the gig boulders to a car-crash end.Ra-ta-da-ta-thunk! But seriously, laydeezangennulmen, it doesn’t kick off quite so brilliantly. For the first 20 minutes, bar the manna-drops of ‘It’s A Hit’ and slowburn classic ‘Can’t Lose’, WAS are frustratingly obtuse; their electro punk-funk formulas too knowingly precise and clinically now to hit you in the pogo bone (‘Worth The Wait’; ‘This Scene Is Dead’) or so clever-clever they seem amorphous; always wrong-footing you with a tricksome off-beat or leaping out of your grasp with an unexpected side-jerk. There are moments during the waltzy, mid-tempo ‘Surprise’ or the slippery Hot Hot Heat-groove of ‘Inaction’ where you’re praying for them to stop playing, put down their instruments and perform a slapstick routine with a long plank of wood instead. But, once we hit the bawling-at-clouds masterpiece of ‘Lousy Reputation’ and ‘The Great Escape’ a major tidal disaster starts in the moshpit, the boosters ignite and it’s a full-thrust blast to the finish.
Now, we’re not saying We Are Scientists rock, but…