I first heard of The Birthday Massacre through a friend, who had put two of their songs (Lovers End and The Dream) onto a CD mix for me. On my first listen to the songs, I was certainly interested, but didn’t really give them a second thought for another month or so, when I was putting the CD onto my iPod. That’s when I really got hooked on them. Chibi, the singer for TBM, has an amazing voice, and in fact the band has an amazing sound full stop. They’re not like anything else I have in my music collection; be that from their name or from their music.
I was looking today at some of their albums because I decided it was about time I got at least one, but after listening to a selection of songs from each of their albums, I still couldn’t decide which one to get. Both Lovers End and The Dream, which I already had, are from the album Violet, so I thought it would make sense to get that one… But the songs on Hide and Seek and Pins and Needles were SO good too! So I took to YouTube, in an attempt to decide between them. At first that didn’t help, because I listened to In The Dark from Pins and Needles and Looking Glass from Walking With Strangers, but then I listened to Blue. Although all the other songs I’d heard were good, and I loved them, I didn’t react to them the way I did to Blue. That song sent – and is still sending – shivers down my spine. I love the way Chibi sings in this; at first her voice is sweet and melodic, but at the chorus it changes so suddenly to something low and almost guttural. Both compliments the song’s melody so well and I fell in love. The video that goes with it… Wow, that was haunting, to put it mildly! Seriously, those dolls are really creepy – it’s a great video though! But if you haven’t already guessed from the title of this review, the album that Blue is from is Violet.
And what an album it is. Honestly, how I was dithering between it and other albums is beyond me, because it is brilliant. Admittedly, I’ve only listened to it the whole way through once so far, but I can see it being on repeat for a very long time to come. The prologue, which at only 39 seconds long, really makes me think of something otherworldly, perhaps from Doctor Who or something like that. It also leads really nicely into the first song, which is Lovers End, one I was already familiar with. I’ve not yet decided on any favourite songs from the album, but I think this song is going to be really high up there. Her vocals are just fantastic and I love the chorus – “Take, just one last dare. Pretend you don’t care til twilight falls. Wait, is someone else here? And I can’t stop my tears, I’ve never been so scared.” The way she sings it is just so great, and is a real contrast to the way she sings the verses. There’s another part of the song that I’ve discovered I really like, and although I’ve obviously heard her sing it before, I’ve never really paid attention to what she was singing. But I have now: “1…2…3…4 Underneath the cellar floor, 5…6…7…8 Lovers will suffocate.” Isn’t that cheery? I almost want to go back to my blissful ignorance of what she was singing… Almost, but not quite! The next song on the album is Happy Birthday, which is not a cover of that well–known song, as amazing as that would have been. No, it’s far, far superior to that (although, is that really hard?) and again, Chibi’s vocals are fantastic, just as they are on the following song, Horror Show. It’s quite the accurate song title in reference to the entire album, and indeed the band’s name – I mean, The Birthday Massacre is quite the horror show–esque name, isn’t it? And when you look at the lyrics of songs such as Lovers End, well, it’s quite an appropriate description wouldn’t you agree?
The fifth track is what gave the name to the album, and so is obviously Violet. Listening to it, it seems very different to the other songs so far – it’s got quite a cheery, upbeat sound to it, and reminds me a little of the band Patent Pending. The lyrics are a bit contradictory to this cheerful tone, with lines such as “Past uncertainties combine, bringing tears to sleepless eyes. Memory runs the course of time; blood runs cold beyond the violet prison for violet visions.” Then, about a minute and a half into the song, and halfway through the first chorus, the song discards it’s earlier cheeriness and moves into something darker and the vocals are that little bit more raw as Chibi sings my favourite lines of the entire song: We’re never enough, we’re drowning in clichés. So desperate to love, we’re twisting every word they say”. They’re great lyrics, and so true too – in particular the line about drowning in clichés. Colours seem to be a bit of a running theme in this album, as the next song is Red, and there’s also Blue and Black. Then there’s the album/track 5 name of Violet as well. As it turns out, Red, much like Prologue, is a short instrumental piece, but it’s by no means pointless or boring. My favourite part of it is towards the end (no, not because it’s finishing), as there’s a bit where it sounds like water gurgling or bubbling, and it makes me think of someone drowning. …Because that’s not a morbid thought. Moving swiftly on, Red flows nicely into Play Dead, which in my opinion has a somewhat dark electronic beat to it. This is one that could become a favourite, if only for the lyrics – “Thinking hurts, and thoughts don’t rhyme to those of us who’ve never tried to find a face behind our lipstick smiles. And as our pretty faces die, our plastic hearts will wonder why the makeup just won’t hide the scars of time.” They are some really good lyrics in my opinion, because to me it’s like saying that appearances are deceptive, and with lyrics in the first verse such as “You’ve lived in their shadows trying hard to please them, but they’ll never change as long as they’re breathing” it’s saying a similar thing, and it seems to me as though TBM are singing about trying to fit in and conform, just to be accepted, but no–one’s interested in anything or anyone but themselves. At least, that’s my interpretation; yours may differ.
The next track is Blue, which I’ve already mentioned in the beginning, so I’ll just move onto the song after that, which is Video Kid. From the opening bars it really sounds like something from a video game – my first thought was Mario! – but there’s something almost sinister sounding lying quietly underneath it. What I like about this song is that, on first listen, you might think she’s actually just singing about a boy playing a video game – and with lyrics such as “Need a new game, need a new something more. Got a new face, got a new way to score”, one can be forgiven for thinking that. But if you look at it from a different perspective, in particular at the line “Turned him into a video kid like you”, then you may start to see that it could be about how society is trying to turn us all into being of one and the same, like robots – video game characters are controlled, just as society can be seen to be controlling us. Again, that could just be me who thinks that, but I doubt it. The next song is The Dream, which is the other song I already had. This is another one that I really love, and the opening melody is great. Despite the relatively fast-paced beat, Chibi’s voice is slower in comparison, but it works really well. When it gets to the short chorus, she speeds up slightly and her voice goes higher before dropping both in tempo and in range for the next verse. This is a song that I’ve not analysed terribly deeply (this review is getting long enough as it is!) and the only thing that really sticks out as to what it could be about is about a girl, again someone who stuck out from society, who ends up dying through whatever circumstances. At least, that’s what “Now she flies over clouds in twilight skies, nothing to bind her, no–one will find her this high … And for the first time she feels just fine” has led me to believe. We then go into Black, which is another instrumental, and another very beautiful piece. This then leads us into the penultimate song on the album, Holiday. Generally, that would give you connotations of something relaxing and enjoyable. But this is The Birthday Massacre. When you think of your holidays, I’m pretty sure you don’t immediately think “Deadlight holiday, killing time to make us stay. Hollow as the promises of yesterday”, although if you’re pretty cynical and don’t want to be there in the first place, then that might be what you’re thinking! Just like the rest of the album, this is another good song, although perhaps not a favourite one of mine.
Finally, the last track: Nevermind. I love the introduction; at first it’s almost like a lullaby, but then it takes on a bit more of an electronic tone, but still retains the lullaby theme. When Chibi starts singing, the theme to Ouran High School Host Club springs to mind, not because of the lyrics, but just because of the almost cheerful way she sings. Actually, the melody and even her voice sound considerably cheery, which kind of contradicts the lyrics if you ask me – “Five glasses changed my mind. Seems like the ticking hands are taking their time. I guess I’ve been at home for longer than it takes to unwind, so slap me if I step out of line”. I don’t know about you, but it just doesn’t seem to be the kind of thing you would sing to a tune that’s quite jaunty! It works though, and I really like it. Nevermind is definitely a great ending to an entirely phenomenal album. One thing that seems to have jumped out at me from the entire album is that there’s a sort of electronic-y beat running through all the songs, which gives off a sort of same-y atmosphere; however, I don’t mean that to sound like it’s a bad thing, rather I find it very good as you can immediately tell that it’s The Birthday Massacre, and it gives the album a sense of being united together, if that makes sense.
I really recommend giving this band a listen, whether it’s songs from this album, or any of their other albums – they’re all fantastic! Here’s a link to the video of Blue – I did warn you that it’s a little bit creepy though!