The Birthday Massacre: Looking Glass

The Birthday Massacre pads their catalogue with another EP, remixing and rehashing previous material and throwing a few new bones to die-hard fans.

The Birthday Massacre

Looking Glass

Label: Metropolis
US Release Date: 2008-05-06
UK Release Date: 2008-05-12

With Looking Glass, the Birthday Massacre releases yet another EP. Following on the heels of its full-length album, 2007's Walking with Strangers, Looking Glass remixes previous tracks in the group's catalog and tosses in a few new songs. The operative words being "a few".

In spite of the fact that the band has been around for almost ten years, the Birthday Massacre doesn't have too many albums to its name. Remixing material from previous albums, this latest eight-song EP helps to pad the group's catalogue.

The Birthday Massacre seems to suffer from Pretty Boy Floyd Syndrome. No, not the famed Depression-era bank robber that Woody Guthrie immortalized in song. I'm referring to a C- or D-list '80s hair metal band of the same name. The Pretty Boy Floyd in question made a career out of re-releasing ever-so-slightly revamped versions of songs from its first album, Leather Boyz with Electric Toyz (and you wonder why they were on the D-list?), by tossing on a new song or two alongside previously recorded material or re-mastered demos on full-length albums and EPs for the better part of a decade.

Granted, the Birthday Massacre may not be (and this is still debatable) nearly as big a transgressor of this practice as Pretty Boy Floyd, but it is guilty of rehashing material from previous albums over the course of the almost ten years the band's been together. While the Birthday Massacre's sound is about as far removed from hair metal as you can get, the closest the industrial/goth/trance/electronica outfit comes to the genre is a tinge of '80s dance pop throwback shading. Having gotten its start in 1999 under the name Imagica, the band changed its name to the Birthday Massacre, building a following on the Ontario club scene before taking the show on the road, releasing a demo that hit corners of the United States, South America, and eventually Europe.

Although the the Birthday Massacre's sound could best be described as a mix of gothic, industrial, and pop, the industrial factor has been amplified by the presence of fellow Canadian Dave Ogilvie, who has remixed and produced for the likes of Skinny Puppy, Marilyn Manson, and Nine Inch Nails.

On this latest batch of remixes with a few new songs thrown in, the Birthday Massacre continues in its vein of ethereal industrial, made even more otherworldly by the breathy vocals of the group's sweet-voiced female lead singer, Chibi. Boasting only three brand new songs, one of which could hardly be considered a new song and another a cover, Looking Glass leads off with an untouched version of the nihilistic title track as originally heard on Walking with Strangers. While the group hasn't broken out and away into the mainstream enough for the masses to instantly pin-down its signature sound, the sextet lays definitive ground on the strength of this kick-off track.

One of the three new songs on the Looking Glass EP, the instrumental "Nowhere" goes (quite literally) nowhere. Serving as an ambient two minutes worth of windswept synthesizer riffs languishing in repetition limbo, the track can't even qualify as industrial-flavored trance at its finest. It holds little purpose on the disc other than to act as filler material bridging two different remixes of "Red Stars" together and bloat the track listing to an even eight tracks. Speaking of bloated, the nearly seven-minute Space Lab remix of "Red Stars" is gratuitous at best, floating in an eerily foggy and tedious formaldehyde haze, sucking up precious space on the disc.

The EP's final new track is a cover of Tommy James and the Shondells' "I Think We're Alone Now", later re-popularized by teen queen Tiffany. Although it's a cover track, the Birthday Massacre finds itself completely at home and within its element. More than just a cover of a cover, "I Think We're Alone Now" brings out the synth-flavored retro-pop factor of the band's sound with its sparkling, crystalline version of the song. Chibi's breathless vocals, Owen's synth riffs, and Rainbow's soft-spoken guitar parts jive together to recreate the Birthday Massacre's true sound, rescuing it from the remixed perdition passing itself off as an EP.

Although the band has yet to crack mainstream consciousness, still inhabiting the dark underground of rivet-headed industrial-electronica aficionados, the band's glimmering cover take and the title track are emblematic of the sound that Birthday Massacre fans have come to embrace. The rest of the material on Looking Glass seems to exist as just a clever tactic to keep the band -- working on its next full-length -- on the fans' radar and pad the band's catalog with another EP, instead of what would have otherwise been a glorified promo disc release of a single.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.