Ah 2005, what a fine year. The new wave of indie bands had truly arrived with the likes of The Killers, Franz Ferdinand and The Kaiser Chiefs all enjoying rampant success at the top of the charts. As the acts were busy touring the country without a care in the world the general consensus on the festival circuit was “This will last forever! Barman, bring us more champagne!” Oh how we laughed.
Unfortunately nothing lasts forever. That’s the way it is with indie bands. You either evolve into a festival headliner or stadium filler ala Coldplay or you disappear into obscurity ala…The Young Knives. We Are Scientists however seem to be the exception to the rule.
Having hit the big time with their debut album With Love & Squalor they proceeded to carry on their upward trajectory with their second outing Brain Thrust Mastery. Having recruited Andy Burrows and being the stars of their own MTV mini-series, they then released their third effort Barbara to a slightly muted response despite featuring great singles Rules Don’t Stop and I Don’t Bite.
So album four and it’s at this point indie bands face a crossroads. Do you shoot for the big time? Or do you cement yourself as a cult classic? Things start off with a swagger on What You Do Best, which carries all the hallmarks of a classic WAS tune harking back to the sound of early tracks such as Can’t Lose.
Next it’s the turn of Dumb Luck. Unveiled on the Business Casual EP this is one of the more energetic moments on TV En Francais featuring some frantic riffing and hook led crooning courtesy of frontman Keith Murray. Make it Easy is a token single and unfortunately feels like a bit of a misfire whereas elsewhere we’re treated to the first power ballad the New Yorkers have produced in the form of Courage which at 2:28 is over all too quickly.
Return the Favour culminates in some glorious arena sized soloing and Slow Down is an all-out rock riot, both standout moments. By the time final track Take an Arrow rolls around it’s pretty clear obscurity will have to wait its turn to consume We Are Scientists.
All in all TV En Francais is an interesting proposition. There has been no change in direction, no switch in focus and no attempt to follow the latest trends. It’s an album filled with trademark sounds and song structures, particularly from their Brain Thrust Mastery era along with some new ideas culminating in an enjoyable, but not exactly ground-breaking, listen.
There’s plenty to enjoy here and with a back catalogue as strong as theirs you should definitely check them out live on their upcoming UK jaunt. Just don’t expect a stadium tour anytime soon.