Return to Central [Deluxe Edition]

Return to Central [Deluxe Edition]

by bis

CD(Special Edition / Jewel Case)

Overview

By the time bis recorded their third album, 2001's Return to Central, they had traveled a long way from the ramshackle, over-excitable trio they started out as only a few years previous. They trade all their noisy shouting and amped-up rhythms for a much more refined, almost sophisticated approach that follows further down the electropop path blazed by their previous album's high point, "Eurodisco." Manda Rin sets aside her yelpy exhortations in favor of silky crooning, the boys in the band (John Disco and Sci-Fi Steven) craft song after song that come off like ABC run through Sigue Sigue Sputnik with a stop at the Pet Shop Boys for polishing, and there's enough dancefloor-friendly fun to make up for the occasional stumble. Getting those out of the way first, when bis try to get moody and dark on "We're Complicated," they sound just a bit detached and over-produced, though the similarly serious "The End Starts Today" fares a little better thanks to a more compelling melody and a riveting vocal performance from Manda. The rest of the album is a delight, however, ranging from blippy space disco ("What You're Afraid Of") to spacy Bond ballads ("A Portrait from Space"), but hitting the hardest when sticking to uptempo, propulsive dance-rock with synths. Tracks like the so bright you need shades "Protection," the absolutely strutting "Silver Spoon," and the Manda Rin as a Debbie Harry-esque killer android "Robotic" deliver all the fun of their earlier raucous punk singles, but with far less screaming and way more sex appeal. It took the trio a few tries, but with Return to Central they found their ideal sound and wrote their most immediate, most effectively played and sung, and overall best-sounding batch of songs to date. [Do Yourself In's 2014 reissue of the album adds a second disc of single tracks, remixes, and a handful of covers. The remixes are all lots of fun, especially the Syndrum and Adult. mixes of "Robotic." The covers are lots of fun and show that the bandmembers were experts at taking classic songs and making them 100% bis. The vocoder-sung version of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and Section 25's "Looking from a Hilltop" are nice electroclash updates; their take on "Shack Up" is a pummeling dancefloor filler that should have made the song a hit for the third time. These songs, plus the band's excellent originals that fill the rest of the disc, only add more value to the band's best album.]

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