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Bis | Music for a Stranger World | review | alternative | rock | Lollipop

Bis

Music for a Stranger World (Lookout!)
by Jamie Kiffel

Bis presents a techno-pop universe of huggable electronic harmonies laced with socio-political messages buzzing neon between the notes. As fun, hopped-up and cute as Social Dancing (their 1999 release) was, this six-song EP features club-ready tracks like "Dead Wrestlers," an almost Chumbawamba-like dance tune about the dumbing-down of culture, repackaged until the original is no longer separable from the commercial satire ("I can't tell the difference/ The soap box or the stage/ It's just like the process when wrestling became fake"). The question is, can we really take this idea seriously when it comes from a band who's using electronic versions of classic instruments to create "new" music whose roots are all but unknown by today's pop fans? The music Bis creates is fun and goofy, even verging on Shonen Knife's or Cibo Matto's surrealism with lines like "Your beats are in the office, Sir," and "How can we be strange when we've got work to do today?" However, the beauty of foreign bands who mistranslate is that deeper meanings arise accidentally and playfully. Reading Bis' lyrics carefully, they are thick with carefully-contrived messages. For instance, "Your politics are pantomime... Maybe I'll see you on the other side/ When we have nowhere left to hide" (from "Dead Wrestlers") or "Programming is my one outlet/ It beats the sickness in my chest/ I have these beats inside my head/ Back to the office block instead" (from "Beats at the Office"). Without reading the lyrics, it's easy to entirely miss hearing them - they're generally all tossed off like musical filler. They seem very misplaced within the context of what is basically a stab at mainstream pop, like Mattel's Van Gogh Barbie (side note - Mattel, creator of the most-beloved, most commercially engineered, most-sold toy in the world, decided that Van Gogh, who died penniless, insane, and despised, had lost all meaning sufficiently enough to associate with their product. Where does culture end and commercialism start?). I say, Bis, either be political and obvious about it, or stick to what you do best: fun pop without a hidden agenda. Otherwise, serious messages just become part of the MTV-ization of our culture, commercial-ready rebellions where all the proceeds go to support the mainstream.
(PO Box 11374 Berkeley, CA 94712)
 


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