The New York-based band We Are Scientists are known for their off-putting sarcasm as much as their catchy singles. That winking self-awareness consumed their 2005 debut album, With Love & Squalor, as frontman Keith Murray remained pithy in his pop-rock polemics. He relished in his aptitude for prioritizing fun decisions over sound ones, audibly ached over his actions, then repeated this cycle without missing a single beat. This pattern resulted in tarnished relationships for Murray and some of the best songs on that LP, like “This Scene Is Dead,” “Can’t Lose,” and “Callbacks.”
As their discography grew and ultimately evolved, Murray’s outward ire transformed into inward rumination. Their sixth and most recent LP, April’s Megaplex, is the best example of this: It balances the band’s swirling compulsion for chaos with their newfound self-reflective ways. And on Wednesday (June 13) at Sonia in Cambridge, the very first performance of their North American tour was the perfect manifestation of this.
We Are Scientists’ brand of confrontational intimacy infuses their live show with a raucous kind of energy. Songs were delivered plainly and instinctually — there were no theatrical buildups between them nor were there any long winded stories about their significance. “The Great Escape,” “Buckle,” “It’s a Hit” and “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt” were fired off in rapid succession and felt euphoric in their all of their glory.
Songs from Megaplex like “Your Light Has Changed,” “No Wait At Five Leaves,” and “Now or Never” were weirdly familiar and soothing despite their newness. It was a seamless evening that would be capped off with an encore emphasizing Murray’s ability to still let his fun side show.
Right after “Rules Don’t Stop” and “Nice Guys,” he jumped in the crowd to perform “Textbook” as the last song of the evening. He passed around the mic, twirled an unsuspecting onlooker and sprung onto the bar to croon the last few lines of the song.
In those final moments, we were reminded that despite their changes over the years, We Are Scientists still know how to throw one hell of a party.
Photos by Candace McDuffie; follow her on Instagram @cmcduffie1.