Slight Disconnects

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When bis burst on the scene in the mid-'90s, they didn't seem built to last. Their calamitous sound that blended punk, indie pop, rap, and new wave into a joyful teen racket felt ready to fall apart at any time. It was amazing that they stuck it out for so many years in their first run, evolving from jumpy punks to electro-poppers to disco kids with surprising ease. It's even more gobsmacking nuts that more than 20 years after their first single, the trio are back and sounding better than ever. Slight Disconnects is their fourth album (discounting the data Panik etcetera collection that featured tracks from their unfinished early 2000s album plus songs from a post-bis band they formed called Data Panik), and it's a rollicking good record that sounds like vintage bis. Filled with jagged guitars, blippy synths, and yelped vocals but with tighter production than usual, Slight Disconnects is their most consistently strong batch of songs yet. Unlike a lot of bands who go away for a while and then come back, bis aren't trying to ape the past note-for-note in a bid for nostalgic glory, nor do they sound desperate or out of step. The album sounds like the culmination of their career, like they finally got all the pieces to fit together just right. It's not a huge shock since the Data Panik tracks were also really good, and Sci-Fi Steven's band Batteries from the 2010s was, too. This is on another level, though -- the songs, arrangements and performances are inspired. Tracks like "Dracula, You Broke My Heart" and "There Is No Point (Other Than The Point That There Is No Point)" jump and twitch like the best new wave; "Sound of a Heartbreak" is punchy modern rock; and "Hot Dog at the Rock Café" and "Home Economics" have a relaxed swing that must have come with age. The album's closing track, "The Big Sunshine," is the brightest, sweetest sound they've ever done; it's certainly the calmest Manda Rin has ever been, and she infuses the track with a warmth and emotion one might not expect from bis. The rest of the album is exactly what one might expect from bis; that is, if they were counting on the band making their best, most enjoyable album over two decades after they formed.

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