...no-one is going to join a revolution that parties like it's 1982.
A cartoon Manda frowns from the sleeve. Behind her, Sci-Fi Steven looks weary. Even John Disco seems guarded. Something is up with Bis – something no strawberry popsicle or rare comic can put right.
Underneath the gooey sweet wrappers, theirs has always been a music powered by dissent: passionate, often funny and – increasingly – genuinely aggrieved. It’s just taken ’til ‘Music For A Stranger World’ to make it plain.
The riot kidz-turned-perky synth-poppers are not best pleased with the world. They’ve lived a little now, since the squally entry of their sugary keyboard punk into the middle of the last decade, and they see it’s full of fakes, straights and music fascists, prisoners in suits and enemies of fun. They’ve learnt that heroes can turn on you (the Beasties having dropped Bis from Grand Royal). Killing your boyfriend is no longer enough. The old foes, schoolwork and fake DIY, have passed. The crisis has worsened: it has grown up.
The mini-album ‘Music…’ is very much a malcontented, wayward heir to ‘Social Dancing’, their last LP. Instead of celebrating the school disco, ‘Dead Wrestlers’ for instance, is a bleak lyrical polemic against a 20th century of fakers, remembering the pre-WWF fighters who once did it for real. It’s simplistic stuff – businessmen are hollow; fake is not just as good; people with interesting hair are better than squares – but such truisms are the cultural battlefields in which we take up arms every day.
But if Bis are chewing away at the dead hand of homogeneity, there remains one sure grip on their collar: the fact that their [I]cri de coeur[/I] sounds like The Human League. For as Bis have matured as people, so too has their grasp of early-’80s keyboard sounds. Where their early records charmed with their rickety teen immediacy, latterday Bis records have traded tinny punk edge for sleek disco sheen. There have been great leaps chart-wards (like last year’s terrific ‘Eurodisco’), and some splendid, experimental noises (check ‘I Want It All’‘s mental bloopings). But for all the synth-pop skills demonstrated on the best tracks here, no-one is going to join a revolution that parties like it’s 1982.