Album Review

Chad W. Lutz

Planet Anthem offers its fans a new Bisco.

Think back to the mid 1990s for a moment. Rocko’s Modern Life was in its third or fourth season. Tupac was in and out of jail. Oasis hit the charts with long-lasting hits “Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova.” And the Chicago Bulls, lead by Michael Jordan, could do no wrong (so it seems). But something else that came out of the mid-90s is still as strong today as it was when acid wash jeans and Danny Tanner ruled pop culture.

Now entering into their second full decade of musical mayhem, The Disco Biscuits released their new album, Planet Anthem, their fourteenth musical endeavor and fifth studio LP, on March 16th. But according to High Times Magazine, many fans are calling for the days of old.

The thirteen track LP from the now notorious Philadelphia natives known simply as “Bisco” to their fans comes in at a modest 55:54 and kicks off with a hint of the psychedelic as the album literally winds up as if it’s about to throw a musical punch right to your dome. The reggae-funk tribal dancer typical of the band called “On Time” follows up. The song was released as the band’s first single and features another Philadelphia native, TU PHACE, who lends his tinselly-reverbed lyrics on the cut.

The album then moves into the bouncy, almost poppy, sounding rocker “You and I.” After seeing them live in 2008 with a head full of unmentionables, I can personally say that this song is about as far from the performance I barely made it through as it gets. But songs like “Sweatbox” and “Rain Song” [a possible homage to Zeppelin], in all their guitar glory, roar right back with a sound rebuttal.

“Sweatbox” starts out brooding and eerie, with dissonant guitar and wailing vocals before launching into a near thirty-second solo that would make Han blush. “Rain Song” starts out soft and fools you at first, sounding more like a Muse song than the traditional rave style that Bisco has become infamous for. But the song picks up and features a psychedelic piano solo at its climax in the baby-grand style.

Planet Anthem also features the instrumental “Uber Glue” that sounds like what an 80s trance song probably would have sounded like if the genre was around and popular back then. The song, like most of the tracks on the album, features heavy synthesizer work and organs, with a groovy bass line to get the “party started” as the terrible Black Eyed Peas might say.
Along with their characteristic trance and dance sound, Planet Anthem also meshes a blend of styles as the band looks to push forward. From the eerie and provocative, to the almost Beatle-esque bass line on “Loose Change” [referring to Magical Mystery Tour’s 1967 “Flying”] and pretty much everything else in between, the album showcases the diversity that has become more and more prominent in The Disco Biscuits repertoire. But if you’ve been a band for almost twenty years, the tendency seems to be to push it as far as you can go. Luckily for Bisco, music seems to know no bounds, and they are definitely some of today’s front-runners when it comes to expanding the musical mind.

Planet Anthem offers its fans a new look Bisco. Taking its old jam based form of techno and attempting to blend it with some of the more popular trends of today. And while many fans have regarded the album as a pop flop, others are calling for the ushering in of a new era for The Disco Biscuits. And while the album isn’t displeasing to the ears, the only true way I know to get a full feel for the band from Franklin’s Land (and fans will probably agree with me) is to see them live. To see them, is to know them. And to know Bisco, well, might just have you standing jaw-dropped in the middle of a field while your mind tries to comprehend what’s going on around you in a techno swirl of guitar, keys, bass, and drums…Yup.