We Are Scientists, King's College London, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

"I'm some supercool jumper-guy today, but now the jumper's off," says lead singer and guitarist Keith Murray before stripping off his pullover after the first song, "The Scene is Dead" - a hyper-catchy, Strokes-like stomp. Murray's bandmates, Chris Cain (bass) and Michael Tapper (drums) kept their jumpers and startling abundance of facial hair firmly on. The US trio appeared to be championing Napoleon Dynamite chic, but their blistering, exuberant power-punk-pop was something to behold.

The impudent 20-something trio took their band name from a man at the U-Haul company who remarked they all looked like scientists. The title of their debut album, the exuberant With Love and Squalor, is lifted from a short story, For Esmé - with Love and Squalor, by J D Salinger. They formed at Pomona College in California (they're now based in New York), and given their academic leanings, you would expect some sharp, analytical songwriting. You would be mistaken. We Are Scientists are very much in the Killers-and-Kaiser-Chiefs mould. Their lyrics ostensibly focus on two main topics: sex ("I won't tell anybody/ If you want to use my body/ Go for it" on the taut, infectious single "Nobody Move, Nobody Gets Hurt", which sparks mosh mayhem tonight) and booze ("The night is young/ I'm blacking out/ But it's been fun, all this"). Not profoundly scientific material. More like hedonistic teenage anthems and weird science.

But it works splendidly, mainly due to some infectious hooks and skewed riffs, gallons of skittish, raw energy and, most of all, because of Murray's charismatic stage presence. His urgent, sensitive vocals are married to some sensational body swerving "dance moves". Murray, who looks like a sleeker version of Louis Theroux, only with floppy hair and without the spectacles, was a nervous bundle of explosive energy. Quite frankly, he could lose the rock-geek look and walk into any indie band in the world. He's a heady combination of Jarvis Cocker, Julian Cope and Julian Casablancas. Only in a pullover.

The hour-long set, which was littered with college students flinging themselves on the stage, took in their entire debut album - including the quintessential pop-punk track "The Great Escape". There was very little padding, as one three-minute cascade of indie fuzzed-up punk rock converged into the next, with only some quirky, Anglophile humour between Murray and Cain to stem the flow - "We don't do encores," claims Murray. "We don't want you cheering for a couple of turds [Murray points at his bandmates] and me." Of course, they don't have quite enough material to justify encores and one does wonder where the nerdy trio will progress from here. Will they shed the facial hair and knitwear, and write more complex lyrics? It hardly matters - with Murray at the helm, they could conquer the indie dancefloors.

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