Negativity (Red Records)
The Science Of Suave is the killer, the clincher, the final word on any question of whether this album is worth your time.
It’s not necessarily the best song on the album, though it has every right to be so considered, not the wildest or nastiest, nor even the funniest. But lordy lordy lordy, it does all those things at just the right pitch to feel like the Scientist song you’d play to a newbie to explain to them why they should listen. Why, indeed, they should undo another button on their acrylic patterned shirt, run fingers through their hair to jag it up or out, and crank this shit up so they can damn the lumbago and put some life back in those hips, lips and frosted tips.
It’s got one guitar going the full – and I think this is a technical term so forgive me if you’re a civilian – wang, with an attitude of yes, I own this place. It’s got another guitar buzzing like a viciously pernicious mosquito in the back. The bass and drums have the swing of a heavyweight boxer with nimble feet: menacing subtext but limber topline. And above it, wondering “how did I ever get so fucking suave?”, the voice of a grizzled ex cop who may be about to offer you a drink or smack the back of your head with a phone book, and you won’t know which one is scarier.
You can dance to this, though others may want to stay a metre or two back as you do. You can drink to this, though more a shot of bitey spirit than some thick-skinned stout. You can, well, get on the job with this, though your companion shouldn’t expect it to be a slow and tender moment.
Yeah, this does it for me. I’m in.
But ok, fine, you may want to know more about the first album in something like 14 prime ministers from what could reasonably be called the classic Scientists lineup, or at least the next-to-last-and-pretty-perfected lineup: Tony Thewlis and Kim Salmon on guitars, Boris Sujdovic on bass, Leanne Cowie on drums, and every one of them on hair, sharp gear and fuck-you-and-the-horse-you-rode-in-on cool.
If the prodding aggravation of Naysayer comes at you with the blurry eyes of the insistent drunk who won’t stop showing you exactly what he means, and Dissonance is a leather buddy caught between swipes of the whip, everything snarls and cries in Make It Go Away as the bass emerges from some recesses of the building only to be confronted by what may as well be a band saw in the hands of Thewlis or Salmon, hacking into the structural supports.
The effect is thrilling as much as teeth-gritting, but then in the final 30 seconds, after some parlour piano appears and then almost immediately disappears, comes a trombone putting a forlorn tone into proceedings. A tender human touch? What now? Yep, it’s true.
Where was that contrasting note while you were being jerked you back and forth like you were dangling from a basement hook hearing the sound of feet coming down the steps? Salmon’s near-falsetto against the needlepoint guitars is not quite the same thing.
Still they had by then already offered the highly amusing, loose hipped garage blues of Outsider to make the swamp seem like an Iggy dance spot (and unlikely pick up joint). And if you wait long enough (or jump right to the end) the quartet bring some dive bar Howlin Wolf to the clanking Outer Space Boogie, and the effect again is disturbingly slightly sexy.
“Come on, let’s boogie,” says Salmon before the song heads into some divergent hypno-rock. “All night long. Out here in space, the night is long. In fact, it’s endless.”
I’m not saying you will find comfort in that, but hey, it takes all kinds eh?
A version of this review was published in Happy.
SPOTIFY: Listen to Scientists - Negativity