CD Reviews

BIS

I Love Bis: '94-'96 (spinartrecords.com)

Limited edition Web-only reissue of Glasgow-based band's earliest singles.

When Scotland's Bis first raised a dance-punk ruckus in the mid-'90s, import-informed music lovers here tended to split into two camps: those who found the teen trio's politico-pop truly revolutionary and those who found it cloyingly revolting. Manda Rin, Sci-fi Steven, and John Disco were a love-'em-or-loathe-'em gang of three who grew up on Huggy Bear, Bratmobile, and Blur, drawing heavily on their influences to create a pogo-powered romp of disco beats and shouted slogans. Every act has its fair share of allies and enemies, but most criticism of Bis unfairly focused on Rin's Poly Styrene screams and gloriously tongue-in-cheeky lyrics on tracks like "Icky-poo Air Raid" and the brilliant "Kill Yr Boyfriend." But it was Rin who made Bis so invigorating—particularly in the trio's earliest and best years, as documented here. On the four out-of-print singles and various compilation tracks included on I Love Bis, Rin, wearing her Riot Grrrl smarts on her sleeve, sounds more defiant and confident than ever as she spouts spot-on critiques of boy-clique culture ("Plastik People") and abusive boyfriends. There's not a dud in the bunch, and for anyone who's inspired by the rabble-rousing antics of bands that refuse to separate politics and pop, this 19-track compilation is a revelation—and the sound of a revolution. Jimmy Draper

RACEBANNON

In the Grips of Light

(Secretly Canadian)

Chaotic Indiana rock outfit delivers the delicate sound of total destruction.

There are about 15 seconds of In the Grips of Light in which the sonic nervous breakdown known as Racebannon pause to catch their collective breath. Those 15 seconds are the small silences spaced between the eight successive bouts of dementia that make up the quartet's second full-length. The other 56 minutes are crammed to bursting with relentless jackhammer percussion, angry swaths of guitar that cut like serrated steel, and the agonized shrieking of one Mike Anderson, who sounds for the duration of the record as if he is being repeatedly drawn and quartered. The results, naturally, are fascinating. Though the constant frenetic pummeling of In the Grips is impossible to withstand for more than 10 minutes at a time, in measured quantities it works as sort of ultramusic. "Fox Boogie" teases with a tense booster-rocket buildup before detonating on the launch pad. "Flip 'n' Fuck" is total shambling chaos, racing through its six minutes like amphetamized speed metal. Racebannon present rock and roll in a world without rules—a world where the drive for something faster, something thicker, something more anarchic has produced a repugnant, slavering, triple-headed, murdering beast whose every grotesquerie becomes more riveting the longer you look. J. Edward Keyes

THE ANNIVERSARY

Your Majesty

(Vagrant)

Emo's out, prog rock's in—except when power pop is in.

If they were worried about being pigeonholed as emo and having to deal with all the baggage that comes with links to a suddenly over-accepted subgenre, the Anniversary need fret no more. Your Majesty is infused with the sounds of many forefathers, but nary a one recalling emo stalwarts like the Get Up Kids or At the Drive-In. Lines such as "Move your hips pretty darling/Oh sugar come on" (on "Crooked Crown") or "Sweet Marie, there's a hole where your heart should be" (on "Sweet Marie") are regulation power pop. Yet their execution is utterly arch, marked by fey pronunciation and pirouetting piano. Unusual juxtapositions abound here. Varied tastes can surely be an asset, and Rob Schnapf's (Elliott Smith, Beck) production lends the material a beefy foundation that goes halfway to tying it all together. But Your Majesty suggests that the Lawrence, Kan., band is still searching for a cohesive vision. "We are the ones that make you laugh/ Forget all about your troubles," they sing bouncily on "Peace, Pain, and Regret." But the seriousness of lyrics like "Turn as the earth and be free/Drink mother's milk and be free," verge on humor of the unintentional sort. Chris Nelson

EE

Ramadan

(Curry Records)

Seam's Sooyoung Park and company trade Chapel Hill and Chicago for California, but the song remains (pretty much) the same.

Seam provided legions of moody, intelligent college kids with a hairpin-turn soundtrack for the '90s. They came along at the onslaught of adulthood and taught the X Generation about exploding in darkness and taking the good (quiet) with the bad (loud). So when word was heard that Seam frontman Sooyoung Park had a new project, older, wiser ears pricked up in eager attention. Although EE is not particularly Park's project (he didn't play on the record but has since joined the band), EE is clearly a project in line with Park. Shuffling drum fills, quick change-ups, whispery vocals, pulling cello parts, gut-kicking truths, and haunting, plucked-then-strummed guitar lines suggest fitful love/hate relationships while evoking all the best of the indie-rock era. This debut album moves along at an ambler's pace; not depressingly languid, but not about to break into a mad dash, either. In this way, EE distinguishes itself from the early '90s: The sonic variations, while full and complete in their tension and release, are not as intense—the lows not as low, the highs not as high. Songs like "Battery Davis" suggest that perhaps EE can be thought of as Seam (and other bands of that ilk) evening out, growing up, and on the mend. But most importantly, Ramadan stands on its own as a wonderfully crafted account of what happens to indie rockers who hold onto their heads without letting go of their hearts. Alaska Reed

EE play the Crocodile on Thurs., Jan. 31at 9 p.m. $7.

 
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