My love of the band Art vs. Science started with this video.
I can’t remember how I found it back in 2010. All I know is that the song grabbed me instantly, from its Devo-like lyrics to its addictive hook. Sure, the video is fantastic, but I quickly found an mp3 and played it non-stop.
The Australian trio plays energetic dance-rock sounds that offer the earworms of pop with retro and synth sounds ripped from the best of the ’80s and ’90s, laid on top of a driving rock rhythm played by an actual drummer playing actual drums. It’s fantastic, and over three albums and six years I’ve followed this band, eagerly scooping up new albums upon release.
When the editors of Ace of Geeks pitched this new Hidden Gems feature, Art vs. Science jumped instantly into my mind as what I’d want to write about. But when I considered the why behind it, I was initially stumped. While other media such as movies, videos, books, anime or TV shows have richly developed worlds that attract the world’s geeky, music is different — especially for geek culture.
Usually when people think about music for geeks, spoofers and satirists are mentioned more than mere musicians. We geeks are supposed to love Weird Al Yankovic. Jonathan Coulton is our spirit animal, because he GETS us. When we party hard, it’s with “THE ‘TUSSIN, THE ‘TUSSIN,” because that’s how nerdcore rolls. We are expected to know every “Monty Python” song by heart, especially “The Philosopher’s Drinking Song” and “Every Sperm is Sacred.” If it’s not crammed with in-jokes and references, such as The Guild’s “Do You Wanna Date My Avatar,” it’s not something we can listen to over and over. And don’t get us started on anime theme songs!
But because music styles differ so much, it’s hard to find music that can appeal WIDELY to geeks. While any sort of specific music can inspire geekdom (don’t get me started on Dream Theater), finding something that can snare a wide swath of geeks is difficult — especially because our tastes can be ridiculously refined.
Yet I knew Art vs. Science fit the bill, for a lot of reasons:
• Band members are geeks. They gotta be. Their subject matter and their videos include plenty of allusions, tributes and nods to many other points of pop culture. C’mon, look at this and tell me they weren’t geeks glued to MTV watching every video they could get away with watching before bedtime:
• Its sound is heavily influenced by the best of the ’80s and ’90s, two decades pretty good for geekdom. “Create//Destroy” is an outstanding anthem that shows off the soundscape the band is capable of pulling off. This is a typical Art vs. Science song, with a prominent driving rhythm, funky bass line and brilliant melody and chorus.
• They are skilled musicians. Much of their electronic music is played on the fly and with strategic looping. Keyboardist Jim Finn, guitarist Dan Mac and drummer Dan W. are immensely talented, and perform live shows that require plenty of attention to what they are playing. Probably the best way to show that is through some covers, including Daft Punk’s “Harder Better Faster Stronger” (some incredible vocoder work here):
and Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”
• They are master songwriters covering a lot of depth with relatability and warmth. Some songs are excessively simple, such as “Bumblebee.” Others are biting and nuanced, such as the lamentations about human conversation and connection in “Tired of Pretending.”
• Band members perform high-energy, upbeat music. Of all the qualities that great geek music should have, this is one of the most important. Being a geek involves a healthy dose of exuberance, and each song, even the band’s more morose tunes, are filled with that.
• Their videos are fantastic. As well as all the above examples, where else will you see a mimefight?
The band’s discography is not large; basically two full-lengths and an EP. Also, a special international compilation was made for worldwide fans featuring songs from earlier EPs. The best place to start diving in, however, is with the band’s debut album, “The Experiment.” Every song is an energetic anthem that thrills. Just try not moving your head to this album. You’ll fail. “The Experiment” is a success.