2014 has been a great year for fans of bis, most of whom are probably well into their 30s by now and growing up (but not old) gracefully along with John, Amanda and Steven. There’s been the release of a ‘new’ album Data Panik etc and the recent 20 year Anthology compilation that picked up highlights of their output. Now we have all three of their main albums re-issued in deluxe formats with more extra tracks than would seem possible for most bands.
By the time 1997’s New Transistor Heroes was released bis were already chart and TV stars and the initial UK fuss around them had turned into a somewhat spiteful smear campaign. Unfazed, bis stuck to their ideals, left the hit singles off the album and delivered a stomping, shouting, searing album that would delight fans and give a firm two-fingered salute to their detractors. This is an album rammed full of ideas and sloganeering delivered with forthright call and response vocals. Tracks like ‘Tell it to the Kids’, ‘Popyura’, ‘X-Defect’ and ‘Dinosaur Germs’ are the punk end of their disco-punk sound. There’s indie-pop in abundance with ‘Starbright Boy’ and ‘Sweet Shop Avangers’ and also hints at their future direction in the synth and beat led ‘Photo-Shop’ and ‘Skinny Tie Sensurround’. On ‘Monstarr’, Amanda berates harmful attitudes towards body size over a thumping disco beat. Amongst the bonus tracks here are some gems. The punk clatter of ‘Keroleen’ and ‘Clockwork Punk’ with it’s circular guitar riff and call-to-arms chorus would have stood out on the album itself.
The follow up album, 1999’s Social Dancing followed a similar pattern but in significantly more polished format. Opener ‘Making People Normal’ and ‘Action and Drama’ are indie guitar pop at it’s best. Loud guitars were still prevalent at this point and the punk influences shone through on ‘Hit Girl’, ‘Listen Up’ and the insanely catchy ‘Young AlienTypes’. The key track is ‘Eurodisco’ which filled indie dance floors with it’s electro pop pounding beats and scored the band another UK hit single. There’s plenty of variety amongst the bonus tracks. Guitar pop songs ‘Like Robots’ and ‘Cinema Says’, the full-throttle punk “Kid Cut” and a move towards electro in tracks like the gloriously sad sounding ‘Dead Wrestlers’ and ‘How Can We Be Strange?’.
2001’s Return to Central was a departure from the previous two albums. The guitars were turned down, synths turned up and the beats were more sophisticated. The uptempo songs on this album are the highlights. ‘Robotic’ is a dance-rock delight, ‘Protection’ and ‘Silver Spoon’ are great disco songs with a slightly melancholic edge. There’s plenty added magic amongst the bonus tracks here too including an insanely brilliant remix of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ and a 12” version of ‘Cubis’ which was a song by Data Panik, the band that followed bis and managed to combine the punk, pop and electro styles of these three albums.
Across the short few years that span these albums bis wore their hearts and influences very much on their sleeves. The sheer volume of songs across these three releases demonstrates how prolific they were, all the more remarkable considering the development of musical styles that they utilised whilst maintaining a high level of quality throughout. Whilst the styles of each album may have differed they all share a common spirit and I think the most important message bis ever offered was that music should be fun, made with a smile on your face and a beat pounding through your soul. Bis were (and still are) packed from head to toe with invention and an enthusiasm that remains as infectious as ever.
All three bis albums were released on Do Yourself In Records on 3rd Dec 2014 – more info HERE
bis tour dates:
9th January – Stereo, Glasgow TICKETS
10th January – Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds TICKETS
11th January – The Lexington, London (two shows) TICKETS