Vocalist-guitarist Jerid Morris claims it’s pronounced “buy-soon”, but he (probably) isn’t serious. That doesn’t even really make grammatical sense (for more on improper umlaut use, see page 31). In fact, Bisön, with song titles such as the AC/DC-reminiscent (in title, if decidedly not in sound) “Rode a Power Chord to Hell,” and “M.” — named for Street Fighter II boss M. Bison — runs serious risk of being dismissed as an exceptionally nerdy novelty act, at least by those who’ve never actually heard them play.
A couple of minutes into their deliberately paced, wordless intro tune, however, you realize this is no joke. The pace picks up toward the end, when Morris’s falsettoed “eeeeeeeh”ing reaches full-on Sigur Rós fury, but it builds from solemn ambience, with each initial chord change allowed the full chime of a funeral bell.
Several short, startling jabs from lead guitarist-keyboardist JC Rodriguez’s tambourine shake the somber vibe, and the audience claps along with “Blood.” Morris’s punk-pitched nasal resonance and uncanny ability to scream in key are made for modern rock radio, and Rodriguez’s sparkling fills on the Fender Rhodes electric piano and David Cantu’s percolating bass line suit the voice. Morris has also mastered the organic disconnect that distinguishes Julian Casablancas’s bargain-bin-baby-monitor delivery, and his disinterest adds an intriguing tension to all the rambling bullshit about challenging Satan to a wrestling match and besting Jesus in Truth or Dare in the aforementioned “Rode a Power Chord.”
And then there’s “M.” “This one’s a hit,” Morris says before they play it. “You should know the words.” And he’s right. Julian Mercado’s driving drum beat is built to be stomped by 40,000 feet in stadium stands, and Morris’s repeated promise to “save my prayers for the ambulance” would sound natural shouted by an audience 100 times the size of the hunched-together Warhol crowd.
Saturday’s show served as a coming-out party for Bisön’s debut EP, Sans Sensation, which the band played in its entirety, and which, following the show, sold more copies than they brought sleeves for. “It’s four songs, and it sounds better than any other band’s CD,” Morris said, and he doesn’t sound like he’s kidding. The rest of his sales pitch is probably a joke, though. “It’s vegan,” he adds. “There’s no animal fat in the ink, but it comes with herpes. I have pink eye, if anyone wants to make out after the show.”