My thoughts on “ANTi CONFORMiST SUPERSTAR”, the latest EP from BiS.
Release Date: August 19th 2020
2. Imitation Sensation
3. DiRTY and BEAUTY
4. IT’S TOO LATE
5. I WANT TO DiE!!!!!
6. GETTiNG LOST
7. CURTAiN CALL
It’s always interesting for me to, admittedly often with no end of confusion, watch the trends that develop in the foreign Idol fandom. Groups becoming super popular and the talk of the town, similar projects not catching on anywhere near as much for whatever reason and everything else besides. I’ve long since given up trying to understand any of it but it makes for an interesting sideshow to my typical media consumption.
WACK in general seems to have really cooled off with foreign fans in the past year or so. They’re still wildly popular of course, but the burning passion with which people followed most if not all of their groups has certainly died down to a more comfortable crackle. A shame in some ways, as I think this year has been a bit of a comeback for most of the agency’s properties, from a musical standpoint at least.
BiS in particular have been having a great year musically, with a strong second album in “LOOKiE” (review here) which they’re now following up with their latest EP “ANTi CONFORMiST SUPERSTAR”. A wonderful contradiction in terms, as is the norm for WACK groups as much like many a Punk band before them they try to hold onto that rebellious aesthetic while enjoying all of the perks of major record label success. None of that really matters too much however, as most of us are probably here for the music these days anyway. Speaking of which, let’s see what WACK’s longest running brand has in store for us on this outing shall we?
“DESTROY” gets the EP started in typical BiS style, lots of chaos but still keeping things fairly melodic at the same time somehow. The bass guitar and drumbeat from the instrumental set a pleasing, bouncy tempo early on and give the song a nice rhythm that gives the vocals something catchy to work with as they follow their lead. Said vocal performance is also pretty typical of this iteration of BiS in that it’s fairly raw and with a sense of purity to the almost exuberant way in which the girls are all shouting out their lines. It’s a bit rough around the edges in places but I think that’s what gives this group a lot of its charm really. Speaking of rough around the edges, the choruses see things take on an even more chaotic quality as the instrumental becomes more distorted while welcoming in all manner of guitar riffs and synthesizer parts while the vocals strain even harder at the seams as they attempt to keep up with everything that’s unfolding around them. It’s still rather catchy in an odd sort of way so I found myself enjoying myself despite the aural assault being waged on my ears. The last minute or so of the track sees BiS really pour it on as the song races to its conclusion and just like that it’s over and we’re on to the next track.
The title of the EP’s second track “Imitation Sensation” is pretty interesting in a lot of ways and depending on how you want to interpret its meaning, it also cuts pretty close to the bone. A lot of people say that this BiS line-up is a pale imitation of the group’s past glories, etc or some other such jibe. It makes sense then that for this song BiS have pretty much taken everything from the BiSH playbook and crafted a Ballad that sounds not too dissimilar to “Orchestra” or several other songs in the now vast BiSH catalog. Obviously the vocals aren’t anywhere near as polished here but again, there is a certain charm to that if you choose to look at it that way like I am. The instrumental is a bit too distorted for me personally but that’s an issue I’ve had with actual BiSH for what feels like forever now so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that I’m mentioning it here too. It’s kinda funny because if they tried to play this off as a serious attempt at this style I’d probably be way more critical of it than I am. In all honesty between the title and the actual content of the song I’m pretty amused by it all really and yeah sure, why not have a little bit of fun like this every now and then. It’s not like the song is bad either, you’ve just heard it before with slightly better vocals is all.
Did anyone else sort of think of Visual Kei when they saw “DiRTY and BEAUTY” as a track title or is that just me? Anyway, the EP’s third track is pretty short at right around 2 and a half minutes so I guess seeing that I was sort of expecting this really quick tempo, rambunctious Punk song or something along those lines. Well I did get a Punk song sort of, in that this is very much falling squarely into that Punk Ballad type of style that WACK is pretty well known for at this point. A nice galloping drumbeat keeps the tension pretty high for much of the track with some muted guitar riffs also providing a bit more fuzzy definition to everything going on. The vocals are Ballad style for the verses and you’ll be familiar with how that sounds I’m sure, and for the choruses they get a bit more volume and start to flow a little bit more freely which makes for a nice change of pace. These songs are always a bit weird for me personally because they’ve got some nice energy to them but at the same time they usually end up feeling like they’re being held back which is pretty much what’s happening here too. Still, pretty enjoyable on the whole but it’s not exactly bringing anything particularly new to the party.
“IT’S TOO LATE” has this pretty epic, almost fantasy sort of feel to it as the opening instrumental begins to play. A very atmospheric Rock sort of style that BiS have going on here and I’d say that broadly speaking this is something a bit different, especially from this group anyway. Fairly deliberately paced, at times somewhat dramatic sounding vocals eventually enter the fray and away we go, building up to that first chorus. When it hits, for me at least, things go a little bit too out of control vocally with some very high pitches being hit to mixed results. I love the idea for sure as it does still sound pretty epic, there’s just a couple of especially rough spots here and there that knock it down a little bit. We keep a lot of the instrumental energy coming out of that first chorus however, which makes for a slightly muddier listening experience from what I heard anyway. Not a huge deal but I wouldn’t have minded hearing the guitars a bit clearer than they were coming through my headphones. We do get a pretty sweet guitar solo that acts as the bridge of sorts though so I guess I got what I wanted in a somewhat roundabout way. Outside of that the song pretty much lets the emotions ebb and flow like the tide, surging and receding again before building it all back up one more over and over. Quite the intense listen after a while but I think my ears grew into the track the more I listened to it because I didn’t end up noticing the rougher high notes after a while. Pretty impressive stuff in the end actually.
Fifth track “I WANT TO DiE!!!!!” is the main promotional song for the release, receiving quite the strange and rather disturbing music video for its troubles. If you ever wanted to see idols take part in some erotic asphyxiation with a weird alien/wolf/demon/bug/man…thing then you’re in luck I guess. The track itself isn’t anywhere near as odd though, in fact it bears quite a striking similarity to BiSH once again. By that I’m of course referring to the piano tinged Rock instrumental that’s giving off a pretty strong Ballad-y vibe, which is something that we all know BiSH are more than adept at pulling off at this point. It’s pretty nice stuff, if not a bit too muddy thanks to the distortion of the guitars coupled with the relentless drumbeats but again we’re not really reinventing the wheel are we? Vocally it’s a very strong performance, though again it’s hard not to be reminded of BiSH given that the structure and tone in which the lyrics are being delivered is pretty much a carbon copy of their style of doing things. I feel like you could put this on and I wouldn’t instantly think it wasn’t a BiSH song, which I guess is good or bad depending on how you want to look at that statement. In the end it’s a fine song but it lacks a lot of the BiS members’ personality in favor of the more radio friendly, well worn WACK production style.
I suppose we haven’t really had a “true” Ballad in the more traditional sense yet on this fairly lengthy release so it should probably come as no surprise that this is what penultimate track “GETTiNG LOST” ended up being. The instrumental is pretty low tempo, almost sad sounding in a way at times, but I’d say on the whole it goes along at a fairly deliberate pace but with the occasional flair for the dramatic. If you’re looking for something to get up and jump around to then this track definitely ain’t it folks. There is something quit enjoyable about the mellowness of it all though, and the brighter soaring moments are definitely making more of an impact given how much of a contrast is being created there. Vocally it’s a fairly similar story I suppose. The slower, more deliberate parts see the BiS members deliver their lines in a low tone and fairly sedate pace before pouring on the emotion and letting their voices soar when we hit a chorus or other little interlude of sorts. Again, we’re not exactly trying to rock the boat with this one and I personally think it would have been a good time for some kind of BiS silliness or something. As it stands, this is a fine track and certainly holds its own against others in this style but it doesn’t stand out in any particular way so it’s not going to be the most memorable entry into the BiS discography.
Closing things out on what can best be described as a mixed bag of a release is the incredibly appropriately titled “CURTAiN CALL”. I guess after the last couple of songs being a bit on the safe side they decided to go out with a bang on this one as the instrumental is positively frantic in its pacing and with a whole bunch of Punk Rock crunch to the guitars that are giving me carpal tunnel just listening to the riffs fly into my ears. It’s wild, it’s out of control, it’s pretty much exactly what BiS should be in my personal opinion. There’s a bit of roughness to the vocals, which is perhaps to be expected, as they shout out their rapid fire lines in an attempt to keep up with the punishing pace set by the instrumental. That said there’s still a decent amount of melody involved too which helps to brighten the track up a little bit and remind us all that this is a Pop group after all. They ease off a little for the choruses which I’m not normally a fan of but here it makes sense to be fair. That said, I’m less of a fan of how we starting creeping further towards a Ballad by the end of the track but I suppose it did make for a pretty epic sounding ending sequence so maybe that was a thought from my brain that would have been better served not being committed to digital paper. In any case, great track and a great closer for this release as far as I’m concerned.
I mentioned it above, but “ANTi CONFORMiST SUPERSTAR” is a bit of a mixed bag of a release for me. There’s some really good songs for sure, but I can’t help but feel BiS kinda wasted a lot of time here trying to be somebody else. Their imitations were good, don’t get me wrong, but the group has its own personalities and style so why not just give us more of that instead? If I want BiSH I’ll go listen to BiSH, for example.
All that being said, WACK are having a pretty good year all things considered and while not the best I’ve heard from this current BiS line-up, in a lot of ways this is another very strong release. I guess we’ll have to play it by ear with regards to when we next hear something new out of BiS, but all being well I’m hopeful that we might get another CD out of them before we all put 2020 firmly in the rear-view mirror.