The Scientists - The Scientists (In The Red)
Iconic bands recording new music years after their prime-time is fraught with peril. Recapturing old magic is nigh impossible when every member has inevitably moved on, musically speaking. Only a few succeed.
The Scientists - as in the Salmon-Thewlis-Cowie (Chock)-Sudjovic line-up - have been an off-and-on, reformed concern for years, coming together for occasional festivals or the odd juicy support tour as, and when, members are available. They put together this five-song 12" vinyl EP between Australian shows and released it to promote their first US tour in 2019.
These days, their laboratory is spread over two continents with guitarist Tony Thewlis living in the UK and the rest of the band in Australia, so parts of the recording have been worked up inisolation and stitched together. Knowing how the sausage was made, in this case, doesn't detract from the taste. The EP, and the single (an updated oldie) that goes with it, rocks in its own uniquely primeval way. Completists should note that it was was proceeded by a digital-only single in 2017.
Swamp-funk opener "Hey Sydney" gives the band's old hometown a middle finger ("Memories aren't what thy used to be") and ties tongue-lashing to a wicked feel and a trademark drone undertone.
"Wot's This Game" is a pop song at its core but is wrapped in a cocoon of hard guitar distortion. "I'm Taking It With Me" recalls the jagged rhythms of "Burn Out" and is wholly satisfying. "100 Points of ID" is one of those extended, clever Kim Salmon rants, name-checking past and present drummers in some sort of musical identity crisis set to nagging guitars.
The "Don't mess with the formula/Don't lose the formula" line in "Self Doubt" may be ironic but it's anything but self-perpetuating. Salmon's haranguing vocal hangs over layers of fuzz and an uncompromising feel.
It's said that great things are a sum of their parts and these Scientists surely fit that bill with significant input from all concerned. The simple yet effective rhythms of Leanne Cowie and Boris Sujdovic might lurk underneath all that fuzz 'n' drone but are as integral as those noisy Thewlis and Salmon people.
US label In The Red has released it on vinyl only here.
Will be more? Let's watch where this goes.