In the beginning, there was BiS.*
Brand-new Idol Society (hence the acronym) was founded in 2010-11 by Pour Lui, an indie rock singer who saw what a lot of people observed at the same time — that the previously flourishing J-rock scene, plus a whole hell of a lot else, was being pushed aside by the relentless tide of idol.
Pour Lui had a choice. She could accept a mostly anonymous career with a very long shot at success as a musician doing what she already was doing; she could go idol; or she could do something radical.
Fortunately for the world, the only choice that she didn’t make was the first one.
Yep, Pour Lui decided to form an idol group of her own. But this wasn’t going to be your average underground outfit, nor would it pander to convention for the sake of success. No, the mission of BiS was to destroy idol. From the inside.
The first iteration of the group was a four-piece: Pour Lui, Hirano Nozomi, Yokoyama Rina and Nakayama Yukiko. They quickly recorded a self-titled album (which included an eponymous song — how meta is that?), and just as quickly began to fall apart.
I’ve seen differing accounts for why first Rina, then Yukiko, quit the group, but they all boil down to Pour Lui’s raging insistence on being as un-idol as possible — the video for “Paprika,” for instance, involved headbanging with mannequin head props and sort of simulating oral sex and deliberately awkward homoeroticism; for “My Ixxx” up there, the by-then-a-trio romped nude in Aokigahara, Japan’s infamous demon-haunted suicide forest.
But you apparently can’t keep a driven Pour Lui down, and she replaced the departed members with, in the end, three newbies: Terashima Yufu, Wakisaka Yurika and Michibayashi Rio.
For a lot of people, this version of BiS — the “Quintet” (or, as I like to call them, BiS 2.0) — was the definitive one. It was the lineup in place when they were signed to Avex Trax out of the indies, it was the lineup that really gained national notoriety, and it was the lineup behind BiS’s second album.
See, when I think about BiS in terms of Pour Lui’s mission and the arc of their history, I look at the Brand-new Idol Society album as a statement of purpose — we’re here, things are going to be different, look at what we’re doing. IDOL iS DEAD, on the other hand, was a declaration of war.
It’s a heavy album, musically and lyrically. This was BiS going for it. I can only imagine how reviewers felt the first time they popped in the CD and were met by that thundering title track. And maybe the coolest part was that the title, IDOL iS DEAD, was less a declaration (idol was very much alive and continues to do very well, thank you) than a threat.
Basically, it’s definitive idolcore, the standard against which all others will be measured.
It was also the beginning of the end, or at least that’s how the fragmented information available in English reads to me.
As documented in the video for “hitoribochi,” stunt-loving BiS was going to put on a show of endurance; they were going to run a 110km supermarathon over the course of 24 hours, THEN do a 24 hour performance.
That’s ridiculous, and of course it ended in disaster — Yurika, “Wacky,” was the only member to get anywhere near finishing the run, and she injured her leg along the way, but tried to power through the performance, anyway. The predictable aggravation of the injury eventually led to her withdrawal from BiS.
I don’t know if Yufu (“Yuffy”) was already contemplating a change at that point, if she’d joined with other things in mind or if it was a wakeup call for her, but she elected to leave the group, too, shortly after Wacky, and go solo.
Once again, BiS was down to three.
Pour Lui didn’t waste any time, though, in adding three new members, creating the first version of the BiS sextet (I call the final lineup BiS 3.0; but the initial sextet, with Rio [“Mitchel”] still around, I think of as BiS 2.5).
But whereas the previous members of the group were more amateur in their presentation, glad to be doing BiS but not really focused on a music career, these latest members were seriously ambitious musicians.**
First Summer Uika, Ten Tenko and Kamiya Saki, though lacking in experience, were/are talented and very serious about making quality music, and that’s what they did. This precursor-final iteration of BiS had a more refined, more mature sound, and they were sort of going for broke.
I don’t know one way or another if losing Wacky and Yuffy soured Pour Lui on the whole BiS thing, but she did start working on a new solo project around that time, and Mitchel quit, and all the signs pointed to an eventual breakup.
Which did come, unfortunately in a way but fortunately in another, because while we lost BiS, we gained the proliferation of ex-BiS and post-BiS artists as a result.
BiS announced their impending breakup for summer 2014, with a hoped-for show at Nippon Budokan following a final album. The final lineup rounded out then, too, first with the stunt casting of near-octogenarian Koshino Junko in a funny troll of their fans, then “permanently” with Koshouji Megumi. And they kicked off their final tour, a Road to Budokan in true idol fashion.
For various reasons, they never did play Budokan and instead held their final performance at Yokohama Arena. They did, however, drop a pretty great final album, WHO KiLLED IDOL?, something of a bittersweet victory lap for one of the baddest groups of women to ever record together.
In a lot of ways, it’s quintessential BiS — well-written, intense music that doesn’t skimp on tough imagery. It doesn’t have the same heft of IDOL iS DEAD, but it’s still generally a must-have for idolcore fans. And, to my knowledge, it also features the largest musical contributions from BiS members of any of the albums, which is a testament to their talent and focus.
BiS’s legacy is an immense one. In addition to six successor projects (including Ten Tenko’s solo career as a DJ), they created space for alt-minded idols to do more of their own thing in their own way. They made heavy music an okay thing for idols to do, and they showed that it’s possible to earn a seat at the big kids’ table by being bold and, if necessary, shocking.
Being neither a woman nor Japanese, I’m not equipped to say that BiS also made a big feminist statement in a culture and within an industry that have more than their fair share of sexism, but I do have to say that BiS’s willingness to flaunt sexuality and put on ribald displays of violence had to have made a big impression. It seems as though it’s not a BiS video without somebody winding up naked and/or bloody; they treated their very sexuality as a weapon, disarming the potential eroticism of lesbianism or nude female bodies with everything from fart noises to gore to implied rape (seriously, I have a hard time watching that DiE video).
They just didn’t care. Zero fucks were given. Live performances had more energy and intensity than a lot of metal shows I’ve been to.
Your move, Fifth Harmony.
It’s why there’s a consensus growing among fans that, as good as BiSH for instance is, you can only nail this kind of mad perfection once. It’s a shadow — blood-soaked, bruised, middle fingers poking assholes — that every other idol group that goes hard will always live under.
And for all of that, they left a huge impression on idols themselves. Their joint single with Dorothy Little Happy (as purely idol an idol unit as has ever existed), “Get You,” is a nice pop song with a typical BiS twist, and they created a genuine friendship with Dempagumi.inc that led to joint concerts and covers of each others’ songs …
… and a BiS appearance as villains in the video for “WWD II.”
If anybody can explain to me why BiS kidnapped Pinky away from the ersatz Dempagumi, please do share.
As a testament to their legacy, all you have to do is take a quick walk through the long list of dance tribute videos for “nerve” put on by idol groups great and small to see that BiS may not have killed idol, but they certainly left scars, and the industry is still adjusting to the world they left behind.
What they sound like
BiS’s signature sound is somewhere between pop-supported hard rock and irreverent pop punk. But that’s way too simple for a group that never shied away from a musical challenge and loved to bring the pain. Punk informs their sound, but it gets pretty hairy out there sometimes.
You’ll like them if
If you’re into the greater punkosphere, you’ll dig on BiS, but keep in mind that they were as much about the attitude as about the way their music sounded, so you’ll also like them if young women taking no prisoners while at times masquerading as typical idols and at times going out of their way to blow up the very concept of that sounds cool to you.
Entries on the Ultimate Homicidol Playlist:
So, so many. They’re the literal backbone of the thing. Just go enjoy the list.
|Pour Lui (leader)
|First Summer Uika
|Yokoyama Rina (Rinahamu)
“Taiyou no Jumon” (太陽のじゅもん) (digital single)
Brand-new idol Society (album)
“Interaction” (いんたああくしょん) (digital single)
“My Ixxx” (single)
“Tofu” (digital single)
IDOL is DEAD (album)
“Get You” (single, w/ Dorothy Little Happy)
“Fly / Hi” (single)
“Denden Passion / IDOL” (split single, w/ Dempagumi.inc)
WHO KiLLED IDOL? (album)
“FiNAL DANCE / nerve” (single)
*I said it before, but I’ll say it again: I know that BiS wasn’t the first to do this stuff, but credit for bringing this amazing stuff out of the underground goes to them. Credit for the growth of the scene goes to them. Credit for this website goes to them. If you want to talk about predecessors, by all means, let’s do it, but RESPECT THE BIS.
**Yes, I know, Rinahamu is kind of a big deal on the alti-idol circuit these days, and I give her a lot of credit for just humping the hell out of a career to this point, but let’s not pretend that she’s a budding idol superstar no matter how cool BPM15Q is.