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LIVE REPORT: Bis
Marc Burrows , January 13th, 2015 12:29

Marc Burrows reports from London's the Lexington

"Blimey, are they still going?" I'm off to see Bis tonight and bump into a friend on the train. It's a valid question- for indie-kids of a certain age (almost certainly indie grown-ups now, if such things exist) they're a band that tickle a vague memory of a Glaswegian trio, all hair slides and bouncing and John Peel and Power Puff Girls and shouting "KANDYPOP!" on Top Of The Pops. Aside from smash hit 'Eurodisco' (number 37 with a bullet back in 1998, pop fans) they didn't really trouble the mainstream, but there's a small nook of like-minded 90s types for whom Bis meant the world.  So yes- they are still going. Ish. Sort of.  After their 2003 split they reformed for a number of one-offs until eventually the reunion just carried on- last year they put out their first album in 13 years, Data Panic Etc which collated the odds and sods of the last decade and combined them into a surprisingly cohesive 45 minutes of sprightly disco-punk. These days they tour when they can get babysitters.

Tonight is the second of two shows at London's Lexington, following a child-friendly matinee this afternoon that apparently was full of gonzo toddlers hyped up on Panda pops and the novelty of live music. The evening show is a very different affair- for starters, and this came as a surprise, it's a bit of a sausage fest.  For a band whose core-fanbase always seemed to be clones of singer Manda Rin there's an odd hairy-bloke flavour to tonight's show, but then the band themselves have a harder live edge than their original incarnation, playing with a drummer and bassist on top of the guitar/guitar/keys triple-vocal tweecore line up of their early days. 'Making People Normal' kicks off a properly career-spanning hour (which seems an odd phrase for songs that sounded so joyously disposable way back when,) which is a relief from a band who, prior to splitting up, seemed a bit embarrassed by their early records. Tonight we get an early-doors showing for 'Secret Vampires' from 1996's Secret Vampire Soundtrack EP prompting frontman Steven 'Sci-fi Steve' Clarke to proclaim "let's all reflect on just how old that song is," as well as 'Clockwork Punk' and 'I'm A Slut'. These old songs sound startlingly good- completely full of life and wit and bounce. You wonder how they could have been quite so overlooked all these years later.  

What's more, the 'new' material (none of which is especially new) slots in beautifully. Anyone new to the band would be hard pushed to spot Data Panic Etc's 'Minimum Wage' or 'Control The Radical' as anywhere out of place, nor would they necessarily cast 'School Disco' as a song from 19 years ago. There's something about the bounce and spike, and dash of spite that make them all sound rather contemporary- electropop, after all, never goes away. Weirdly the more retro is sounds the more modern it feels. The main set closes inevitably with 'Eurodisco' and a riotous 'Kandy Pop', and while 'Starbright Boy' may be the most dated song of their early period, it's appearance as an old friend in the encore feels satisfying and right.

So yes, Bis are still going, in their own little way, somewhere between nostalgic celebration and overlooked indie-institution. Hopefully they're not going anywhere.

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