The Birthday Massacre | Pins and Needles
Most Likely To: be on Jack Skellington’s iPod.
Just as the original punk movement split into several subgenres, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that the Hot Topic generation’s version of punk would do the same thing and splinter into all sorts of smaller chunks. I don’t shop at Hot Topic or read Alternative Press often enough to know what any of these subgenres might actually be called, but one of them is obviously a 21st century version of Goth.
But where the punk of the Sex Pistols ultimately birthed creepycrawlers like Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, Christian Death, and Bauhaus, the generation of Goths for whom Green Day and Blink-182 personified youthful rebellion are a bit more cuddly. There was always something truly spooky and unsettling about the early Banshees or Bauhaus. The new generation? Eh, not so much. If the visual image summoned up by the first Goth generation was Count Orlok, for the current kids it’s all Edward Scissorhands.
Toronto’s The Birthday Massacre would very much like to be their generation’s Siouxsie and the Banshees. They’re not – an emo band enamored with Tim Burton is more accurate. But they do try hard. They have the look down, and on their fourth album, Pins and Needles, they deploy appropriately ‘80s style instrumentation that is more synth-heavy than The Banshees ever were but is a decent approximation of the era regardless. They definitely are savvy enough to hire the right producer for the whole shebang, Dave Ogilvie of Skinny Puppy, one of the darker industrial bands of the ‘80s.
So The Birthday Massacre’s would-be-black hearts are in the right place, but at the end of the day they’re just too blamed nice to really pull off the nightmare vibe they’re going for. Vocalist Chibi seems like a very sweet girl, but very sweet girls have no place in Goth unless they’re being sacrificed in a Black Mass to the Cthulu or something. Siouxsie Sioux sang about a Chinese restaurant and made it sound like the most ominous place in the world. Chibi makes “Midnight” sound like the time she and Paramore’s Hayley Williams are going to meet up to wait outside the door of Best Buy to pick up the new Twilight movie when it comes out on DVD.
All of which makes Pins and Needles sound like a bad album, which it’s not in the least. The songs are well constructed, Chibi is a talented vocalist who does indeed seem like a genuinely nice kid, and with Ogilvie’s help the band creates a nice atmospheric stew of heavyish ‘80s inspired music, especially on the metallic riff of “Sleepwalking” or the percolating synth-pop of “Always.” It’s the perfect soundtrack for its intended audience – kids who buy black nail polish at Hot Topic and watch The Corpse Bride while they brush it on their nails.
The Birthday Massacre is a perfectly fine band for what it is – a sincere emo band (not that there’s any other kind of emo band) with decent songs and a pretty good singer. But for what they obviously want to be – dark, brooding and dangerous – they’re a pretty weak snifter of absinthe. Get mean, kiddos. Pop those Tim Burton movies out of the DVD player and check out some F.W. Murnau.
Watch the video for “In the Dark” by The Birthday Massacre: