Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Bis comprises three wise-ass kids from Glasgow--the brothers John Disco and Sci-Fi Steven and their girfriend Manda Rin, not one yet 22. With U.K. music split between techno and pop, they're plainly pop, yet they just as plainly have no interest in the '60s totems who so inspired Blur and Oasis. With the Beatles and the Kinks are older than their parents, when they dig for roots they unearth Gary Numan and Duran Duran. Keyed to punky unison chants, deploying high-pitched keyboards and guitars with no regard for virtuosity and considerable concern for overall oomph, The New Transistor Heroes (Grand Royal) is speedier than the New Wave Bis love. The music seems designed to irritate oldsters, as are the attacks on pop stars, homophobes, and businessmen. Bis isn't the first band to believe this is the best way to target teens. We shall see.

Like Bis, the more mature pop combo Tiger extend the guitar-saturated garage-band attitude to various keyboards (including Moog bass) without sounding at all techie, much less techno. But in general, this pushing-30 quintet from the outback of southwestern England takes a broader approach than the upbeat Glaswegians. On the EP Shining in the Wood (Bar/None), they're just as unvirtuosic but with tastes that run every which way, constructing chameleonic songs that remind sympathetic listeners of whatever they most want to be reminded of. Only Tiger's delight itself is unmistakable. And in pop, delight is the ultimate prize.


Anyone who's concluded that DJ Shadow's master class in sampling, Endtroducing . . . DJ Shadow, is what the hip hop aesthetic is for should check out Laytrx--The Album (Solesides), on which his buddies Lateef and Lyrics Born rap to the same purpose--and sometimes to Shadow's own funk tracks.

Playboy, May 1997


Apr. 1997 June 1997