Music / Features
Track by Track:
The Scientists - Negativity
Words by Joseph Massaro
Wednesday 7th July, 2021
Negativity, The Scientists’ first album in 35 years is a continuation of their fiery fusion of blistering blues rock and swampy punk, proving that Perth’s post-punk legends still have it. We caught up with the iconic garage punk trailblazers to provide us with a track-by-track dissection of their latest record.
The Scientists, arguably one of Australia’s most influential underground rock bands, went out with a bang before splitting in 1987 with the chaotically soulful The Human Jukebox. While grunge music was at its peak commercially in the early ‘90s, a style of music The Scientists pioneered, their group leader and mainstay member, Kim Salmon, pursued a solo career, immersing himself in the world of psychedelic trip-hop, noise pop and even acoustic folk. Then when he reformed The Scientists in 2016, it was clear he wanted to get back to the good ol’ days and record some more swaggering and primitive rock ‘n’ roll.

On Negativity, Salmon is joined by the ‘80s core lineup consisting of lead guitarist Tony Thewlis, bassist Boris Sujdovic and drummer Leanne Cowie, who haven’t played together since the band’s strikingly intense 1986 album Weird Love. The 11-track comeback record reiterates the group’s crispy DIY status and takes listeners on a detour of what the band is known for - scuzzy, distorted riffs, pounding drum beats and feedback-drenched freakouts.

On the scorching opener ‘Outsider’, the band showcases their ethos with renewed energy. The doomy ‘Naysayer’ follows in a similar direction with its endless supply of fuzz, spiky rhythms and Salmon’s sinister half-spoken vocals. ‘Seventeen’ and ‘The Science of Suave’ are the closest to The Scientists’ classic swampy sound - deranged and reverb-drenched surf punk from hell. There’s some experimental twists thrown in the mix, particularly on the twangy slow-burning ballad ‘Moth Eaten Velvet’, Thewlis’ tribute to The Velvet Underground. The Scientists sign off on the spacey closer ‘Outer Space Boogie’, an unsettling and warped slice of boogie rock.

It’s impressive that decades later a band can get back together and pick up right where they left off with no inconsistencies or resistance. The Scientists accomplished that on Negativity, which is something to recognize and celebrate. To take us deeper through the brooding, dirty grooves, we had the pleasure of chatting with The Scientists, who welcome back listeners after a long hiatus.

In singing about ‘outsider’, I’m inspired as much by people like 'all girl' ingénues The Shags to serial murderer John Wayne Gacey, to Norman Lindsay to Captain Beefheart. All of them outsiders to normal thinking to various degrees. By singing in the first person, I’m exploring a degree of paranoia that one may be one of these savants. Obviously the song goes beyond artists and into being about all kinds of ‘outsiders’.
Make it Go Away

This, like all the songs on Negativity was written and recorded well before COVID…. I worked up a drum beat that I liked and the first words I began singing to it as I played along were “don’t you love the form”. The ‘form’ is both literally the forms we’re all forced to fill in day to day and that style of stifling banality we’re forever subjected to by the people in charge. I sent a memo (recording) to Tony and he sent that riff back! The rest of the song was a done deal…


A typically Tony Thewlis James Bond pastiche in some unknown time signature was what was sent me. Cleverly written and played to be sure… but this is the Scientists for ‘eff’s’ sake! I should never have let the band do its deconstruction of ‘You Only Live Twice’ way back when. But I calmed down. What if I just sang that guitar line? As with most of the songs on this album, the first line I sang to myself became the lyric I couldn’t escape. These opening lines must’ve been just below the surface ready to explode in a tirade if ‘negativity’. The world is now my shrink… or our punters are our shrinks at any rate.


Certain venues we’ve played at over the years have employed security that does anything but keep the patrons safe. Particularly women! I’ve got female friends who’ve not been allowed back into certain venues to get their bags and phones because the male security has deemed them drunk. The same venues that allow women to be groped and then do nothing about it. Not just females though… in this song I recall the time when the Scientists took the bait of taunts by some thugs who turned out to be the bouncers of the world famous Melkveg in Amsterdam.

Magic Pants

As one reviewer said, “who hasn’t owned a pair of pants that fit so well and looked so good that they felt invincible in them and could do just about anything!” (I may have paraphrased). Mine were these golden jumbo corduroy hipster flares that would take me on wild adventures every time I was in them. I was seldom out of them and thus they wore out and lost their magic. It’s a fable!


Reincarnation is an idea as old as time. People talk about ‘old souls’ in young bodies. Imagine the jaded and depraved world we’d live in every seventeen years old had been around forever.

The Science of Suave

It’s 1983 and we’re part of a scene that includes The Cramps, The Moodists and The Birthday Party. But they’re a throwback to Roxy Music… playing dark music and wearing suits? What spawned this? But more about the song! - In comes Leanne with that killer drum hook, Tony with that super twang riff! One can only let out an exultant whoop! All the actual harmony’s coming from Boris on the bass!

I Wasn’t Good At Picking Friends

A female chorus singing “Beware the ides of March” popped into my head the moment I heard Tony’s riff. Corse I godda sing about Julius Caesar! Or ‘Big Julie’ as we call him!

Moth Eaten Velvet

Tony sends me an idea. He’s worried it’s a Velvet Underground pastiche. It’s working title says it all. But the guitars play a very nice tune. Why not make them the vocal melody and keep Tony’s title. A box of Moth-Eaten Velvet on a shelf… Faded glory… who couldn’t write something heart wrenching from that!?


The first song I wrote for the album - sometime early 2019. Yep! They were all written in a cluster from about June to October. This was simply constructed from one dissonant chord played in relentless repetition with a machine gun drum pattern constructed to drive it! It almost takes off from where the Human Jukebox left off in 1987. It was easy to use dissonance as a basis for some wordplay as well as a metaphor. It wrote itself really.

Outer Space Boogie

Also written round the time of Dissonance but it is much more of an explorative odyssey. I wanted a boogie beat but in the way a lot of the so called ‘Krautrock’ bands of the seventies like Guru Guru and Popol Vu utilised. I’m definitely a fan of the genre but for all of the claims of rejecting the blues, the boogie beat appears quite prevalently, harking to the Spinal Tap quote “basically we’re a boogie band”. Anyway, in playing the beat with that guitar line I found myself singing the line “come on let’s boogie… all night long”. The spacey feel placed that “night” as the eternal darkness and loneliness of deep space. The first two Alien films were pretty much from the times of the first two Scientists incarnations so I wanted to reference them.
Negativity is out now through In The Red Records - head to to grab the album on limited edition coloured vinyl.