It wasn’t until 2007 album ‘Walking With Strangers’ that I got my first encounter with Canadian gothic synth-pop act The Birthday Massacre. Right back in time, before this they had started out no doubt inspired by a certain Clive Barker novel, with the name Imagica. The key members of these early beginnings Rainbow, Chibi and Falcore actually remain in the band to this date and with this we have the chance to dip back into the genesis of their sound with a selection of demos and 4 track recordings from between 1998 and 2001. Some of these numbers obviously made it onto 1st album proper ‘Nothing And Nowhere’ in 2002 but on the whole they were all new to me and I was keen to give them a spin.
First track ‘Over’ bombastically sweeps in sounding bold and brash and clearly evident as being the sound of a band that I had found myself falling for all those years later. Chibi’s vocals stir up the emotions being already heavily confident and full of passion, swooning, sultry and sticky like candy. The electronic components are well formed and orchestrate what is a very catchy number, something that is one of the key selling points of the band now and no doubt responsible for the big cult following the group have attained. A couple of listens in and make no mistake you are going to find yourself singing along. Don’t let the fact this are demo’s put you off in the slightest, the sound is great, bass tones boom and everything sounds really good in the mix. Slow-burning numbers like ‘Remember Me’ tug at the heartstrings and no doubt were the start of a love affair for those hearing them for the first time back in the day. They already have the power to send a shiver down the spine too and as the big synthesized sound-clash of ‘Under The Stairs’ gets literally right under the skin it’s a highly charged moment that is suitably charged. Although it was a long time before this I still find that Tubeway Army must have been a real influence. If you listen to the opening of songs such as the self-titled jelly and trifle kerfuffle that ‘Is The Birthday Massacre’ you could easily expect a certain Numanoid swooping in and singing about his latest trip down to the park. Then again ‘Nothing And Nowhere’ the title track from that forthcoming debut starts out taking me right back to those equally heady days in a manner really reminiscent of Yazoo. It might not be Alison Moyet but this has a chorus and a half and Chibi proves just as formidable at the helm.
Skipping forward a few numbers and the band top things off with some covers. I had not realised or read about these before I heard the first few notes of ‘Open Your Heart’ and immediately recognised it as a Madonna song (not sure I should admit that). Unless you are pissed at a karaoke it’s a pretty ballsy move recording a number by her Madgesty but they certainly pull it off although it might not be to everyone’s taste due to the simple fact that just one listen will have it going round in your head for bloody days! We are on safer ground with ‘From Out Of Nowhere’ and if I hadn’t got this one would have packed my bags. It’s a corker of a cover of the Faith No More classic and has some real thrashy balls about it. This brings us to last cover of a song called Dead and I’m stumped so will hope some smart ass can comment and put me out my misery. I bloody well recognise it and thought it was Manhole, Tura Satana, or My Ruin, Chiba sure does a good Tairrie B here, if not L7 or Babes In Toyland but aghhh? That annoyance aside, this is a cracking listen right through and clearly illustrates why the band are so big now and are having to play 2 nights at the Garage to meet ticket demand later in the year. I really should try and go and see them this time.
(8/10 Pete Woods)