We Are Scientists, Soho Revue Bar, London

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The Independent Culture

If their record sales ever dry up, We Are Scientists could always forge a second career as a comedy troupe. BBC3 would probably give them a show in a second, for while their guitar hooks may be catchy as hell, they can also riff between songs – on subjects as diverse as Billy Joel's sunglasses and the O2/iPhone exclusivity deal.

Tonight, We Are Scientists are once again a three-man band. Last year, they lost drummer Michael Tapper and gained guitarist Max Hart. They have yet to announce Tapper's permanent replacement, but this is an acoustic evening so, for once, his presence is not missed. The Soho Revue Bar show is quiet enough for an audience member to use her phone, and intimate enough for Keith Murray, he of the sweet voice and movie-star teeth, to notice her and confiscate said phone. This incident feeds nicely into a running joke about the relative merits of mobile-phone networks.

The band are ready to showcase their forthcoming second album, Brain Thrust Mastery, but they open the show with "Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt", a hit from their first LP that boasts a chorus along the lines of "My body is your body... If you wanna use my body, go for it." Their lyrics are often less sophisticated than their banter, but it's no bad thing for a band with a brain to be writing songs from the crotch.

Brain Thrust Mastery, due out next month, is a marginally less punky proposition than debut With Love and Squalor, containing more harmonies and a few less crunching guitars than its predecessor. But it's essentially more of the same, smart and infectious guitar pop, highly danceable and hard to shake off. The band's lovely new single, "After Hours", and the softer "Spoken For" are both the kind of offbeat love songs to send thinking men's groupies home in a love-struck daze. "Lethal Enforcer", defined on the record by the use of an Eighties synth theme, here comes drenched in sunny Seventies harmonies and pedal steel guitar.

These stripped-down, acoustic renderings of otherwise toe-tapping tunes are lovely, and they highlight just how sweetly melodic a post-punk trio can be. But after a while, their fans must feel the urge to get up and get down, and this kind of set doesn't allow for any of that. When We Are Scientists return to London in April as part of their tour proper, with drums, electric guitars and the mosh-friendly Shepherds Bush Empire in which to play them, expect the music to come as thick and fast as the jokes.

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