Science for Lunatics is a Montreal band that sounds like a mix of early No Doubt and funk-metal pioneers Rage Against the Machine. The former comparison is owed to Julie Ladouceur’s voice. Imagine a young Gwen Stefani, in all her high pitched riot grrl glory, screeching over groovy hard rock riffs. Consequently, a more obscure but accurate comparison for the band’s sound would be late 90s punk band The Devotchkas.
Thankfully, Science for Lunatics treads a thin line and mixes punk rock’s simplicity and aggression without sacrificing sound quality. These songs rage, but with clarity and focus. Drawing as much inspiration from metal as they do from punk, each song exhibits technical skill, a good grasp of melody, and an aptitude for harnessing intensity in a way that is both catchy and brutal. A punishingly tight rhythm section and unconventional guitar tones is reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave‘s power house trio Tim Commerford, Brad Wilk and Tom Morello.
As exciting as most of the music on this record is, I ended up paying special attention to the lyrics. This is where the band’s punk influences are most obvious and as a result, the words attached to these heavy riffs are bleak, vengeful, violent, and occasionally self-righteous. “Route 28” is a vengeful tirade against someone who seems to have abandoned revolutionary ideals they once shared with the narrator. “Restless” starts off like an individualistic anarchist rant, but eventually exposes itself as a call for sexual liberation. The lyrics, “Touch my body, keep on dancing, ’cause tonight baby, have faith in me” are sexually charged in a way that is not found on any of the other songs, and in that way are made all the more exciting.
“Blinded Addiction” is self-explanatory, exploring the repetitive pain and frustration experienced by addicts. “Hole In The Wall” is a relatively abstract portrayal of an abusive relationship, and the repetitive lyrics do a great job of drawing attention to the cycles that are often seen in such situations. The song has a cathartic end where the abused narrator puts a fittingly violent end to their situation. “Future” is a bleak punk anthem, depicting disastrous consequences stemming from the way human beings abuse our planet.
While Julie’s voice is brighter and higher pitched, her aggression matched with these lyrics brings to mind a Black Flag-era Henry Rollins. Blank Slate‘s slower-paced musical moments also bear a resemblance to the darker and more experimental phases in Henry Rollins’ stint with the band.
For some, the contrast between the pitch of the vocals and the heft of the instrumentals will seem dissonant and unappealing. However, in my opinion, Blank Slate‘s only weakness is the length of its songs. While technically not exceptionally long, the charm of Science for Lunatics’ simple and repetitive songwriting is stretched too thin on each track. Each song feels like it should end earlier but that impression is a double-edged sword because without a vast musical landscape there would be less room for the band’s strong lyrics.
Written by Brian Charles Clarke
*edited by Kate Erickson