We Are Scientists - Crap Attack
Review by Jack Foley
IT’S always inviting the obvious when naming something that critics can pick up on to show how clever they are with words. Hence, just as a band called The Ordinary Boys have to work harder not to sound, well, plain or ordinary, so an album called Crap Attack has to work overtime not to be written off as s**t.
Fortunately, New York punk rockers side-step such cheap shots by making sure that this collection of rarities, videos, B-sides and remixes pretty much deliver everything you could wish for from the band – and a little bit more.
It’s a ballsy album in more ways than one but not least because it throws in a few choice cover versions that really surprise and inspire, while serving to confirm their status as one of the most exciting punk rock acts to emerge from the Big Apple in recent years.
Indeed, there are times when Crap Attack actually surpasses the accomplishments of their hit-and-miss debut album With Love & Squalor, while providing mouthwatering proof of a band that’s not afraid to mix it up, expand their sound and keep things playful and enjoyable.
The album kicks off with the full-on guitar assault of Ram It Home, which sounds like Jet on speed, complete with a wailing, chant-style chorus, before catapaulting its way into the punk-funk disco workout that is Surprise. The strained vocals are terrific, while the siren-like guitars provide some genuine bursts of melody. It’s sure to become an anthem during the forthcoming live dates.
The electro-heavy remix of The Great Escape is a little more erratic and only really comes to life during the familiar chorus (of “I’ve got a great idea”). But a stripped down, acoustic version of Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt is absolutely breathtaking – crisp, clear and every bit as exhilarating as the plugged in version.
Then there’s the cover versions. Most striking is their aching version of Sigur Ros’ Hoppipolla (yep, that’s right, the Planet Earth theme), which is astonishing. The guitar work displays a completely different side to the band – sensitive, intelligent and mature – that makes a mockery of any doubt you might have had in their ability to cover such a complex and cinematic track. By stripping it down to its rawest form, We Are Scientists have come up with something quite special and the track gives rise to a beautiful melancholy that is utterly beguiling.
More fun and old-school is their kick-ass, psychedelia-laced take on Art Brut’s Bang Bang Rock & Roll, which could be plucked right ouf of the ’60s. Your hips will shake along until they ache.
There’s a haunting, even Tarantino-esque take on Sie Hat was Vermisst, which again belies their shambolic punk rock roots, while there’s even more fun to be had in their endearing version of ’50s classic Be My Baby, complete with trite vocal harmonies. It’s genuinely thrilling stuff.
The band is on more familiar territory with the lively History Repeats, an edgy riot of punk rock riffs and crashing drums that is firmly rooted in the NY punk-rock scene, but they slow things down and display a sensitive side again on their acoustic (or Under The Sea) version of The Great Escape, which serves as a wonderful pillow-mate to the earlier remixed version.
The most striking thing about this collection, however, is just how diverse Keith Murray’s vocals can be – flitting between raw, edgy and punky to melancholy and heartbroken in effortless fashion – while the guitars show a greater sense of scope and expression.
It all adds up to a richly satisfying listen that should help to win We Are Scientists an even wider fanbase. It may be called Crap Attack, but these New Yorkers should find themselves flush with another success.