For some, the return of bis will signify the 1990s revival’s saturation point: the “first unsigned band to appear on Top Of The Pops” certainly ground a few gears in their riot grrrl-inflected heyday.
Others, though, will be fondly tracing the worn-out grooves of their Wiiija 7”s while shaking with excitement. Scant reward for 13 years in the wilderness? Perhaps. But that, arguably, would suit the Glasgow noiseniks down to the ground: despite their early hype, they were always far more suited to cult stardom.
It turns out that this new album – their fourth full-length, and first since 2001’s underwhelming (assumed to be a) swansong ‘Return To Central’ – is actually more of a scrapbook than a retread of the glory days, compiling their decade-old recordings as the short-lived, Devo-informed quintet Data Panik.
But unlike most odds’n’sods comps, this actually feels fully focussed, finally delivering on the promise of their latter-day new wave/electro-pop crossover. It’s surely designed as a lovelorn obsessive’s treasure trove rather than new-fan-finder but, ironically, if a band with less baggage had released this back in 2004, the spotlight would almost certainly have beckoned. Tough break, guys.
‘Control The Radical’ sets the tone with protractor-precise angularity, all skinny tie guitars and sunglasses indoors. Brothers John Disco and Sci-Fi Steven still sing in eerily perfect unison, while Manda Rin’s much-adored/derided yelp has long since evolved into something stronger, something more melodious and beautifully compelling.
And delightfully, a disco pulse drives everything, from the political nerd-pop of ‘Rulers And The State’ to ‘Music Lovers’’ sinister Talking Heads-isms. The time felt right when bis originally split in 2003, and the very idea of another record felt laughable – much less one as fresh and fun as this.
But that’s bis for you. Still splitting opinion. Still weaving rich pop tapestries from whatever fibres take their fancy. They deserved better.
Words: Will Fitzpatrick
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Stream this album in full, above
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