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TheklaThe Birthday Massacre
Raggedy Angry
Thekla, Bristol
Sunday October 24 2010




To Bristol for The Birthday Massacre. A pleasant excursion in itself, and certainly better than hanging around in London, waiting for the band's tour to hit the big city.

The Birthday Massacre are scheduled to play the 02 Islington Academy in London, a corporate-sponsored alternorock supermarket strategically located in a shopping mall. Here in Bristol the gig is down in the docks, on board the Thekla, an old cargo ship that was transformed into a floating night spot by Vivian Stanshall, no less. Well, I ask you: which one would you rather go to?

Down in the bowels of the ship, where every surface is slightly rusty steel, Rageddy Angry are doing their screechy industrio-rock thing in a suitably Mad Max-ish setting. Ragged Angry seem to be permanently attached to The Birthday Massacre these days, like some sort of rock 'n' roll Siamese twin arrangement. They were the tour support on the last go-around, and hey, whaddaya know, in response to no audience demand whatsoever that I can discern, here they are again. I dare say it's nice for both bands to be on tour with their mates and all, but unfortunately this does mean we have to endure Raggedy Angry's tiresome cartoonish histrionics one mo' time.

Raggedy Angry

This time round Raggedy Angry are dressed up as space cadets, and the music has been shunted in a more electronic direction, but in truth the band is still an annoying faux-outrageous kindergarten version of Mariyn Manson. At one point the singer asks if anyone in the house - or on board ship - has ever taken drugs. The band members all put their hands up. This bit of schtick is probably designed to make Raggedy Angry seem like edgy kinda guys - hey, we take drugs, kids - but frankly he's asking the wrong question. What we really want to know is why this irritating my-first-industrial-band outfit is here again.

We know why The Birthday Massacre are here again. They've got a fanbase, which the band have diligently built up by dint of extensive touring - and by maintaining a slick presence on every useful bit of the web. It's not like the band are megastars or anything, but without any major label boosting or any mainstream media networking they've hauled themselves up into a position where regular European tours and festival appearances are theirs any time they fancy a jaunt. Not bad for a band from Canada: there are pleny of bands right here in the UK that haven't got half as far.

The Birthday MassacreBut it's not all down to sheer graft. The Birthday Massacre's music is a key factor, too. It's always accessible, always displays a deft touch of pop sensibility, it's never short of singalong choruses or hands-in-the-air moments, and yet it also comes fully loaded with loud guitars and an enticingly after-dark feel.

Add the hyperactive charm of vocalist Chibi - who bounds around with boundless enthusiasm, like a teenager who's finally able to turn up the hi-fi because her parents have gone out - and the rock 'n' roll showboating of the boys in the band, and you've got a killer combination. The Birthday Massacre are the temptingly spooky alternative rock band you can take to the big pop party, and know they'll fit in just fine.

Tonight the band set the Thekla rocking, hurting straight out of the traps with 'In The Dark' - a new song from the new Pins And Needles album, and a quintessential Birthday Massacre slicked up pop-rocker (and a quintessential spooktastic Birthday Massacre song title there, too, incidentally).

They chuck in old faves, like a hyper-energetic 'Video Kid', in which Chibi gives it some quality headbanging when the big riff breaks. 'Horror Show' rivets the band's poppy-verse-and-rocky chorus thing to the nearest bulkhead - and if it becomes obvious, as new songs and old are thwacked out for us, that the band never really stray from their poppy, rocky, crank-it-in-the-chorus formula, well, it hardly matters. They do it so well.

Chibi owns the show, energetically ricocheting around the stage like a stray bullet. The lads have to work hard to keep up - the new bassist, a tall and imposing rocker who looks like he should be in Paradise Lost or something, must wonder if he's joined a band or a gym. Only the guitarist lurks at the back, head down, apparently having an off night. He refuses Chibi's attempts to haul him into the fray. There'll be words in the dressing room afterwards about that, you can bet. But still, it's a great show - and it is a show, rather than a mere gig. It occurs to me that if The Birthday Massacre actually did have a major label, and the music biz make-it-happen crew that goes with such a deal, they'd be unstoppable. As it is, you'll have to run fast to catch them.


The Birthday Massacre: Website | MySpace | Facebook

Raggedy Angry: Website | MySpace | Facebook

For more photos from this gig, find The Birthday Massacre by name here.

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