Birthday Massacre / I:Scintilla

iscintilla dying and fallingThe Birthday Massacre album Pins and Needles

Two young and rockin’ electro-oriented bands have newish albums on the shelves, and both share a further commonality: gradual evolution rather than revolutionary advances in sound or technique.

Canadian outfit The Birthday Massacre (Metropolis) offer a melange of influences melded into a gorgeous blend of heavy rock drums and metal guitar with pop sensibility and the juxtaposition of a cherubic female singer, the uber cute Chibi.

It’s been two years since I caught this entertaining outfit at Brisbane’s venerable Zoo (check out a review here my interview with Chibi here) and the band retain their signature sound on album Number 4, Pins and Needles. It blasts open with In the Dark, but then settles into familiar territory with less gruff metal and a few nods to 80s big hair riffs. You have to listen closely to enjoy the nuances and lyricism. The title track is possibly the catchiest, but there is plenty to reward patience (Shallow Grave, for instance).

Similarly, I:Scintilla are caught in their own wake on album Number 3, Dying & Falling (Alfa Matrix), sounding unmistakably like their fusion of metal and electro-pop with distinctive if slightly underpowered singer Brittany Bindrim up front. There’s a fair swag of studio noodling going on here, whether on uptempo dancefloor numbers or the more intriguing slower tracks: again, you need to listen closely to appreciate the effort, with too few really reaching out to grab the ears on casual listening. The title track is delightfully cruisy, with a raft of vocal and sound effects enhancing the appeal.

I bought the 2CD version, which has 11 remixes and a couple of additional tracks, including the engaging Hollowed; the majority amount to pleasant background noise.

Fans should be pleased with these solid outings but newcomers might find greater instant gratification on the most excellent earlier offerings, TBM’s Violet or I:Scintilla’s Optics.

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The Birthday Massacre

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Chrissy Amphlett has a daughter, and she’s Canadian.

That’s what I was thinking on November 20 when we caught Canadian band The Birthday Massacre at The Zoo in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley.

Their lead singer, Chibi, all of 5’2, looked so cute in her school uniform of white blouse, vest and tartan skirt, complete with pig tails and fringe dangling down to past her nose.

Unlike the venerable singer of the Divinyls, though, she didn’t play the sex card, but rather revealed a malleable face that switched with a blink and a wink from mischievous to innocent. She pranced, thrashed, pointed, shook hands with the crowd… played up to her bandmates … all the stuff you’d expect of an experienced campaigner on the stage. But these kids look so young!

The rest of the band — there were five of ’em — didn’t let her carry the load by herself. Everyone contributed, making lots of eye contact with the audience, exercising their adopted stage persona. Lead guitarist Rainbow was a bit over the top in his grotesque act — I could’ve done without the drooling, but the belting around like a manic thing with its shoes on fire was priceless.

Musically, even allowing for the very ordinary sound and lighting on stage, the band could use a few new tricks. After the hour-and-a-half they played, I felt like I’d heard all they had, more than once, and the one new song they played didn’t suggest any great leaps.

Luckily, what they have is highly listenable: a strong pop aesthetic decorated with electronica and industrial. A killer cover of I Think We’re Alone Now that made me think, for the first time hearing that song, of a stalker. And their stage presence is something that so many of the bland, corporate-alternative Aussie bands could use a good dose of. Get off the mic, move your arse, and stop swearing to provoke a crowd reaction. For all their Goth fashion sense, and their industrial lashings, The Birthday Massacre didn’t swear once that I heard. And I didn’t miss it.

Read my interview with Chibi