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The New Transistor Heroes

Bis

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Album Review

By the time bis went into the studio to record their first proper album, the Scottish trio had already released at least an album's worth of great-to-thrilling singles and EPs for various labels, and it would have made sense to pack their debut with as many of them as possible. The band had other ideas and, guided by a principle of giving their fans value for their hard-earned dollars, they recorded all-new songs for The New Transistor Heroes. Trading in some of the ramshackle energy and lo-fi punch of their singles for a (slightly) more polished approach, the album still has plenty of jumped-up, punky anthems, lots of blasts of candy-colored pop, and plenty of songs equal to their early stuff. The one-two punch of "Tell It to the Kids" and "Sweet Shop Avengers" that breathlessly kicks off the album lets you know right away that the band haven't lost their way despite the upgrade in sound and technique. The rest of the album can't quite keep up the pace, but there are lots of delights along the way. The bubbly confection "Popstar Kill" shows off Manda Rin's vocals in all their yowling glory; songs like "X-Defect" and "Everybody Thinks That They're Going to Get Theirs" have glowing power pop melodies, and "Monstarr" is like a baby Pop Will Eat Itself, with a nice message of empowerment. Hearing the band stretch out and try different styles, like the Kinks-y "Mr. Important" or the dreamy indie rock of "Lie Detector Test," is also fun and shows they weren't willing to just ride their signature sound until it petered out. There are a couple times when they took a tentative step in a less than successful direction, like on the cheesy hip-hop-inspired "Photo Shop" or the dirge-like "Keroleen" that ends the album on a duff note. These small flaws aren't enough to derail the whole album, which ultimately succeeds on two levels: It gives the kids what they wanted — more bis songs — and it pointed the way forward for the band beyond writing only short, buzzy riot pop.

Biography

Formed: 1994 in Glasgow, Scotland

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Taking inspiration from Huggy Bear, the Nation of Ulysses, Blur, and the "cutie" indie movement of Sarah Records, bis were one of the most unique bands in late-'90s British indie rock. Aggressively primitive, bis spearheaded "the Teen-C Revolution," crossing D.I.Y. aesthetics with the incessant bounce of new wave dance pop, anime and manga imagery, and a childlike outlook. Bursting out of nowhere in early 1996, bis became the first unsigned band to appear on Top of the Pops, and became a sensation...
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The New Transistor Heroes, Bis
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