It has been a while since we last heard from Caleb Pate and Nephi Evans, a whole seven years if you count the first release date of their debut album, Life Embarasses Me On Planet Earth. That opus revelled in psychedelia and electronic trickery, as well as featuring some very workable songs. Steady On, Scientist! implies in its title alone that those features have not gone away, but it does tighten things up noticeably in its songwriting, reining in a few of the older excesses.
It’s a tactic that works, by and large. Like its predecessor, Steady On, Scientist! is a relatively short piece of work – almost an extended EP – but that does not prove a problem given the quality and positivity within. The other immediately obvious change is the introduction of a pinch of electronic funk. This makes up for the occasionally pessimistic lyrics, which are a bit out of character, but which add another dimension.
Not that these are in evidence on the passionate opener, once the chorus kicks in to gear. “Embrace the polarity of life in all the good and bad we share”, sing the duo in a call to arms that brings MGMT to mind in its harmonic trickery and sheer catchiness. It’s one of several memorable choruses, backed by the studio equivalent of the kitchen sink.
There are some treasures elsewhere, too. The low slung groove of Wasting Time/Castlefield packs the bass out, while the funk and psychedelic organ of Bucky are ideally matched, suggesting Seventeen Evergreen might have taken in some music from the DFA roster in their time away.
Confirming this switch to a more rhythmic approach is the instrumental Fluorescent Kind, which dances with colour as its textures shimmer over an extremely danceable and rather wonderful beat. Burn The Fruit (Pegasus) is warm and fuzzy, an ideal way to close out the record, a song that takes on epic proportions as something of a slow burner, maintaining the funk but easing down to close.
The chief regret about this record is that it feels one or two tracks too short – a compliment, given the quality felt elsewhere. It’s good to have Seventeen Evergreen back, they have an enjoyable streak of unpredictability, and their new rhythmic direction suits them. Just don’t leave it so long next time, guys.