And so the wheel has come full circle. The late ’90s: shouty lo-fi punk-pop pioneers Bis arrive much before their time and then sink without trace. Ten years on: Bis are a recognisable influence on a new wave of shouty lo-fi electro-pop bands (CSS, The Ting Tings, The Gossip). Hot on their heels, Bis cornerstone Manda Rin releases My DNA, a fine album which falls squarely into that very electro-pop mould.
As in her previous life, Manda’s vocals fall somewhere between Betty Boop, post-helium inhalation; and hairclip-toting Glasgow indie girl. This, though, is the main constant in an album which gleefully pulls in a huge variety of influences from the electro-pop songbook. It starts early: the first single DNA is pure New York roller-disco, full of squelchy keyboards and bubbly basslines; while Typeface draws confidently on Blondie‘s Atomic in playing out a dancey Studio 54 tune on rock instruments.
Later on there are strong nods to the perky electronic pop of the early ’80s: Love to Hate You and No Language are reminiscent of Madonna‘s strident, synthetic early output; and the naive, plinky-plonky catchiness of early Depeche Mode runs through The Word Out and Break Up / Breakdown. If you look hard enough there are even some of the harsh, addled whines of ’90s rave in amongst the school-disco sweetness.
In keeping with her influences, most of Manda Rin’s lyrics sound like pint-sized manifestos about strong girls and rubbish boys: but that’s just fine. Such innocuous teen preoccupations actually come as a refreshing alternative to the default dominatrix persona of electro-girls everywhere (stand up Peaches, Goldfrapp, and Miss Kittin). Things only get serious with Less Than Zero, a pointed analysis of body fascism in the media. Given that she’s come in for a lot of unfair stick for her own appearance, you know that she means it when she sings “Look at her happy in her own skin / They’re just trying to make her feel ashamed.”
If there’s a contemporary point of comparison for such a kinetic pop album, it’s probably just about anything by Girls Aloud. Although Manda’s doing it all herself rather than enlisting an army of writers and producers, but the smash-and-grab ethos is the same: draw on a host of pop influences; make every track insanely catchy and danceable; avoid aural slush at all costs. Because there’s no pause for breath, the consistently frenetic tempo could risk becoming grating if you weren’t in the mood – but if you are, it’s stimulating stuff.
Amanda McKinnon’s transformation from cartoon punk to electro princess is complete. She’s pulled off the admirable feat of taking all the spirit and energy of her old band and adapting it to a new and relevant sound. Expect hairclips to be this season’s must-have accessory.