The grand dimensions of Brixton Academy await We Are Scientists as the young indie-rock-loving crowd sings along to Lou Reed's "Perfect Day". The band's last two nights in Brixton round off a completely sold-out UK tour. The lights dim, the crowd cheers excitedly and, to its bemusement, Phil Collins's "Against All Odds" now plays loudly through the speakers. The band arrive with a histrionic sense of occasion, drummer Michael Tapper joins in with those emphatic Collins beats, and singer-guitarist Keith Murray takes over the vocals as they play the second verse of this ubiquitous 1980s classic with hilarious aplomb. Half the jaws are agape; half sing along.
Absurd humour comes naturally to this New York three-piece. To name your eagerly awaited second album "Crap Attack" shows a pop sensibility almost unknown on these shores, unless one finds the Sex Pistols amusing (not entirely inappropriate). But the fact that We Are Scientists have covered a song by witty punk comedians Art Brut on this album is a reminder that contemporary British music is not without its own humour.
Indeed, most of WAS's second album is covers, remixes and ironic renditions of their own songs from the first album - which doesn't leave them much material to work with tonight. (So why not cover Phil Collins if The Killers sound like Meatloaf and Razorlight are aspiring to be Bruce Springsteen?)
After the crowd applauds their return to the post-punk riffs and angular guitar of their debut with "Cash Cow", Murray exclaims: "I couldn't tell if that was pleasure or distress." But this band like to marry the incongruous. Their website is notorious for its intelligent but often puerile humour, while their songs convey a more genuine sense of existential angst.
Their infectious pop choruses are the band's real trump card, lifting numbers like "This Scene is Dead" and "Callbacks" out of the ordinary. These songs carry a sunny US sound akin to the fuzzy glee of their geek-letters rock predecessors Weezer. Their biggest hit "Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt" elicits an uproarious response - those "woo aah uh oh oohs" are ingeniously on the verge of pop parody.
But their small selection of new songs leaves the crowd a little deflated. Yet somehow they manage to carry the night off, to finish not only with their hit "Great Escape" but with a cover of Boyz II Men's "End of the Road". Some indie fans are just too cool or serious for this kind of goofy irony - but most people stay and sing along.