In these times where pop music is synonymous with manipulative overproduction and empty meaning, there’s Bis to fight for us. Using pop’s conventions to battle against superficial sentiment and corporate puppetry, Bis is a jaded pop fan’s dream come true. While they are pretty far from the same sort of territory in which Christina Aquilera and the Backstreet Boys exist, with their shimmering synth work and peppy disco beats, Music for a Stranger World is nothing but pop music at its finest.
As the follow-up to 1999’s Social Dancing, this six song EP (or “mini album” as they call it) packs energy into every moment. Whereas Social Dancing began to wear itself down towards the end, Music for a Stranger World maintains the same bouncy spirit throughout. It is complete and satisfying, although it’s just over 20 minutes long.
With both the band’s association with the hip cartoon Powerpuff Girls (which they did the end theme for), and the somewhat silly names they have adopted for themselves (John Disco, Sci-fi Steven and Manda Rin), Bis falls into the “cute” range quite often. Their tendency to focus on youthful concerns is part of their charm, even though it can often become a bit cloying, like on Social Dancing‘s “Shopaholic”. While they haven’t fully moved away from this on Music for a Stranger World, the “cute” factor is almost absent. Their accounts of trying to be individuals in a world that force-feeds culture to everyone are surprisingly affecting, even wrapped in bright beats. From the unfocused searching of “Are You Ready?” to their take on the corporate world “Beats at the Office” Bis shows maturity in their reflections on modern life.
The lyrics are often at odds with the buoyant music Bis uses to accompany them. The longing on “Dead Wrestlers” is conveyed through lines like “Believing in something can sometimes mean nothing” while “How Can We Be Strange?” reveals a fantasy world where everyone is who they are. “I’m not a fascist, just wish that folk wouldn’t be so passive toward the freak in the subconscious” they declare in their call to all those who only know how to be normal.
Even though Bis’s blend of effervescent pop and youthful spirit stands out against those who want to older than their years in today’s pop market, don’t let appearances fool you. They have more to say about pop music and its listeners than anyone else, and they do it with respect and understanding. With Music for a Stranger World, Bis is on our side.