New York’s We Are Scientists and Glasgow, Scotland, punk outfit PAWS stormed the stage at Bowery Ballroom in Manhattan last Friday night. The trio of raucous and rowdy Scots opened the night with a frenetic set of blistering power chords and grimy-but-gleaming hooks from vocalist Phillip Taylor. Between songs, PAWS would joke with each other, visibly comfortable despite the packed New York crowd. Their set was short and punchy, racing their way through tracks from their forthcoming album, Youth Culture Forever (Fat Cat, May 6), which was already available at the merch booth. For their closing number, Taylor and the bassist zeroed in on the drum kit, culminating in a clamorous trifecta of flying hair and roiling rock music. It was hard not to love these guys.
REO Speedwagon’s “Keep On Loving You” abruptly blared from the monitors one minute after 10, and We Are Scientists emerged, welcomed warmly by the crowd which included a college-aged man in a large bear suit, for some reason. Lead singer Keith Murray has been writing music for this prolific indie rock group since the turn of the century, but even now with a feathered mop of gray hair over his face, he seems more youthful and dynamic than ever. They opened with a song from their new album, TV En Français (Dine Alone Records), but by no means was this show a promotional tool for their latest tunes. The following number was their 2008 hit, “After Hours,” which led to even older tracks from their debut album, With Love And Squalor, like “Callbacks” and “Textbook.“ A rendition of their most recent album’s “Slow Down,” was anything but slow and recalled the tenaciousness of their earlier days. Between songs, the group put their bewildering sense of humor on display, with extended banter-cum-improvised-standup, resulting in a chronic chanting throughout the set of “Green dicks, green dicks!” from the bear and his friends.
We Are Scientists returned for an encore, playing two crowd favorites before pausing to contemplate not playing another song, as a goof of course. Several audience members yelled out “The Great Escape,” and as Murray and the bassist Chris Cain fought the urge to laugh at their own joke, they launched into that song with harrowing intensity.