By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
LIKE THE TELETUBBIES, Bis are a U.K. export aimed at the youth market. Their rhetorical strategy--also like the 'Tubbies-- involves a mind-numbing repetition that tends to drive the grown-ups a little mad. And for all the happy talk, the mission of both entities can be boiled down to making adult consumers out of the little ones.
Bis (Sci-fi Steven, Manda Rin, and John Disco) are the founders and heads of state of the "Teen-C" nation--an adolescent utopia where John Hughes is God, the diet consists solely of sugary treats, and threats to national self-esteem, such as bullies, roller-skaters, snobbish indie-rockers and oppressive boyfriends presumably have been eliminated. Bis's 1996 EP This is Teen-C Power and their 1997 debut LP, The New Transistor Heroes, outline the foundations of the Teen-C nation: teen movies, skateboards, Drew Barrymore, the contraction "yr," popcorn, cats, disco, and the inalienable right to rot one's teeth.
Intendo, their new collection of b-sides and rarities, offers some of Bis's most endearing work to date--no mean feat for an odds 'n' ends disc. The double-time chorus of "Statement of Intent" is propulsive and edgy, while "Cookie Cutter Kid" features a more-than-credible rap performance by Sci-Fi Steve. Perhaps because of Intendo's mercifully brief running time (less than a half-hour), the incessant sloganeering and naive "politics" that have made Bis's previous output a bit of a challenge for those over 20 don't weigh down the manic energy that is the band's most admirable quality. Hell, even Manda's sub-riot-grrl braying is tolerable, if not exactly appealing, in so small a dose.
Bis offer classic teenage rebellion of the "without a cause" variety: energetic but ultimately empty pro-teen cheerleading ("Teen-C power unites us all/And all the kids got to have a rebel soul"). The faux Hello Kitty artwork and the whiny grown-ups-suck rhetoric belie the band's insistence that they are "more than your cartoon punks," and suggest that they suffer from the eternal paradox of the late teenage years--when one wants the privileges of adulthood without the responsibilities. Hey, I don't want to work either, but car insurance is expensive and my skateboard won't cut it on the interstate.