Bis - Data Panik Etcetera (2014)
The history of bis, since their split in 2003, is one that seems to defy the very meaning of 'break-up'. After playing a farewell show at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, the cult Glaswegian trio were apart for just two years before forming new band Data Panik with Stuart Memo and Graham Christie. However, after releasing a couple of singles they split citing difficulty in meeting the expectation of being a post-bis band. One year later, in 2007, Sci-Fi Steven, John Disco and Manda Rin reformed once more to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their debut album Transistor Heroes. Since then the band have reformed for the Primavera festival in 2010 and finally, over a decade since their last record have now released their fourth album under the bis moniker; data Panik etcetera.
Bis - Data Panik Etcetera (2014)
Alternative, Indie Pop, Electropop | Do Yourself In Records
V0 | MP3 | unmixed | 2014 | 51:02 | 102 Mb
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01. Control the Radical
02. Minimum Wage
03. Rulers and the States
04. Cubis (I Love You)
05. Sense Not Sense
06. Mechanical Love
07. Too Much Not Enough
08. Retail of the Details
09. Music Lovers
10. The Young Mothers
11. Flesh Remover
12. (That Love Ain’t) Justified
14. Thrill Is Yours
As the name implies, data Panik etcetera pulls together material recorded during their brief stint as Data Panik - most notably the singles 'Cubis (I Love You)' and 'Control the Radical' alongside other attempts to record a proper follow-up to Return to Central. Surprisingly these disparate songs, which were basically rescued at the last moment from the cutting room floor, make for a decent, cohesive record.
The spiky guitar and electro pop synths of 'Control the Radical' makes it feel as though bis never really left us. As an album opener it's confident and confrontational, an appropriate return for a band that were critically lauded (and apparently the first un-signed band to appear on Top of the Pops) yet were under appreciated by the public. Meanwhile 'Cubis (I Love You)' with it's dizzying electronics and vocal interplay between Manda, John and Steven, is a strong reminder of why so many fans were saddened when Data Panik ended so suddenly. It is in a sense a perfectly constructed indie pop track - infectious, relatable and with the kind of disco focused melancholia that seems so distinctly British.
What's clear when listening to data Panik etcetera is how much the band's sound has matured. The energy and vibrancy of their early records is still there, and this undoubtedly feels like a bis record as opposed to any kind of late '90s revivalism. Yet lyrically and musically everything has been brought up to date to reflect modern times, as well as the band's age (their average age when they first appeared on TOTP was just 18). Unfortunately it means that the bubblegum pop influence that characterised some of their earlier tracks is missing, but they make up for it with funky guitar riffs and hypnotic bass grooves that give a whole new danceability to their sound. In that sense this record follows a similar path to that of Cibo Matto's Hotel Valentine, another album that marked the return of a cult band after years away and much anticipation. Coincidentally both acts also featured on the soundtrack to wonderfully weird video game Jet Set Radio Future.
The album's not without its negatives. Lyrically 'Minimum Wage' feels a little cliched given how many indie bands have taken to putting out tracks that ironically tackle working class relationships. Whilst 'Sense Not Sense', which follows 'Cubis (I Love You)', is a little forgettable and despite some rather interesting lines, such as "I planned my future like I planned my death / Emotionless," it feels a little contrived musically. There's also an insistence on using a stop-start bridge and a middle eight that seems to have been forced into the song unnecessarily.
However, as an album that's had a rather protracted and difficult creation, data Panik etcetera's missteps are forgivable. This is in part because overall it serves up a collection of songs that provides fans with an album many were unsure would ever see the light of day. It's also down to the fact that the rest of the record is so god-damn catchy. data Panik etcetera delivers up-tempo, four minute slices of pop-perfection and in a variety of styles. 'Too Much Not Enough' is disco-influenced new wave, whilst the dark wave 'Flesh Remover' also incorporates the kind of mechanical dance beats that'd make Factory Floor proud.
The album's closing track '(That Love Ain't) Justified', which fuses '80s synth pop and indie might, lyrically at least, be the record's simplest track, but it's a track that says a lot with very little variation. In many ways it summarises bis' career to date. There's always been a slightly DIY, stripped back approach to their music, but it's constructed and performed in such a way that has won them a devoted fan base and critical acclaim. They may have grown up a little since we last properly heard from them, but they remain just as much fun up to the last beat and beyond. Let's just hope the next record doesn't take as long.
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