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The Birthday Massacre flyerThe Birthday Massacre
Raggedy Angry
Dingwalls, London
Thursday July 16 2009



Do The Birthday Massacre ever stop touring? They've been coming through London regularly for at least three years now, on a gig-frequency that would be respectable for a British band, and certainly counts as impressive for a Canadian outfit. But that's The Birthday Massacre's modus operandi. That's how they build things up. They're doing it the old fashioned way, gig by gig, town by town, country by country. It's not a fast track route to superstardom, that's for sure, but over time it's probably winning the band a more loyal fanbase than if they'd rocketed to prominence as the latest media sensation - and then dropped out of fashion just as quickly.

Certainly, tonight's gig is packed out with eager fans. As soon as the doors open, the Birthday Massacre Barmy Army rushes to stake out their territory at the front, even though we've got two support bands to get through before their heroes arrive.

Which means that when Adoration emerge to kick things off, they're faced with a cluster of eager eyeliner-indie kids crowding the stage - surely a bit of a change from the band's usual audience of old school goths, who are more likely to stand back at the bar, supping pints and chatting to mates, until they're good and ready to glance at the band. I dare say this crowd is quite a bit more keen and Adorationyouthful than Adoration are used to, but that's no bad thing. In fact, the eyeliner indie kids seem to like Adoration quite a bit, soaking up the band's meticulously constructed gothic rock atmosphere-anthems as if it's the coolest thing they've heard all week.

Perhaps, for this younger crowd, it is. For while Adoration may wear their vintage influences on their sleeve (these being, basically, The Mission, The Cure, and The Chameleons - they even cover 'Swamp Thing' just to make sure we get the message) it all probably sounds radical and new to a crowd who aren't accustomed to bands that don't go 'Huuurrgghh!'

And whaddaya know. Here comes a band that goes 'Huuurrgghh!' Rageddy Angry are The Birthday Massacre's homies: like the headliners, they come from Ontario, Canada. In fact, they claim on their MySpage page to have been 'voted the most controversial band in Ontario', but as they give no details of the election process (were United Nations observers present?) I'd be inclined to dismiss that as a bit of shameless rock 'n' roll hype.

In any case, there's very little that's controversial about what Raggedy Angry do, which is, basically, to make the aforementioned 'Huuurrgghh!' noise while dressed up like they're attending a Marilyn Manson convention for the under-twelves. This is, I suppose, what a lot of modern rock music is like: spurious contoversy and a lot of formless screeching, decked out in costumes that look like they're equal parts glam rock and joke shop. Raggedy AngryRageddy Angry are probably at one with the zeitgeist in that respect, although for me it's all a tedious racket and a hackneyed spectacle.

Mind you, I'm impressed by the way the bassist carries a torch for traditional heavy metal values, by making comedy 'I can't hear you' gestures at the crowd, and flipping metal fingers at all and sundry whenever he has a chance to let go of his fretboard. The spirit of Derek Smalls burns bright within him, obviously.

After all that, it's a relief to welcome The Birthday Massacre on stage. For while this band is no stranger to the sound of a boldly-struck guitar, they never forget that fundamentally they're a pop group. That means hooks, choruses, rousing singalongs, insistent beats - all that fine old good stuff.

While we may like to pretend that we're all too rad, Dad, to dig this kind of worthily traditional songwriting schtick, let's face it, we'd miss it if we didn't get it. So, The Birthday Massacre stand in a long line of new-wavey pop groups, from Blondie to The Gossip; bands which match rambunctious punkiness with a sure touch on the pop-o-meter.

Having an engagingly feisty female singer doesn't hurt, either. Here The Birthday Massacre score a definite hit, with their irrepressible vocallist Chibi, a one-woman bounce machine who bounds around the stage, ponytails flapping, as if she's just been let out into the school playground after double maths. Meanwhile, the boys in the band set to with plenty of rock 'n' roll gusto. Notwithstanding the fact that three out of the five male mambers of the band are wearing neat-o skinny ties in the approved new wave manner (and a fourth is wearing a bow tie), there's certainly a touch of scruffy leather jackets in the guitar sound.

But even as the guitars crank up into the rawk zone, The Birthday Massacre's oddly melancholic pop sensibility never fails. Lend an ear to the wistful angst of 'Falling Down', which just might be the best bit of new wave desolation that Brian Molko never wrote, or 'Video Kid', an oddly eighties take on techno-alienation - the song mentions a Commodore computer, a piece of technology probably quite a lot older than many of The Birthday Massacre's fans.

The Birthday MassacreYes, The Birthday Massacre have all the zip and vigour of classic new wave pop groups, and although I harbour a slight suspicion that the band has been deliberately designed by a committee of music industry gurus to hit all the right punky-poppy buttons, the fact remains that they do hit 'em.

As for me, I'm standing off to one side, watching the band and fans match each other bounce for bounce. But my inner pop kid is right in there with the moshers on the dance floor. That's The Birthday Massacre effect for you right there.





Essential links:

The Birthday Massacre: Website | MySpace
Raggedy Angry: Website |
Adoration: MySpace

For more photos from this gig, find the bands by name here.


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  Page credits: Review, photos and construction by Michael Johnson.
Nemesis logo by Antony Johnston, Red N version by Mark Rimmell.