Review: The Birthday Massacre – Pins and Needles

Canadian electronic rock band The Birthday Massacre are one of those bands that are hard to pin down. Take for existence, their newest album, Pins and Needles. Now, we’re mentioned this in the past but sometimes we review albums after a few listens, quick and dirty; other times we sit on an album for longer and let it gestate. That we did in this case, waiting weeks, listening to it over and over before we came before you, bearing our wares. Did we do so because we loved it that much? Well, no, not exactly. It’s more a case of trying, desperately to form an opinion – any opinion – on this familiar-sounding, competent, but somewhat uninspiring album.

The Birthday Massacre are one of those bands which Softsynth is very sweet on. They’re what we call a 360 band – like certain other bands, like Sweden’s Alice in Videoland, we dig everything about them, from the inherent sound, to the (admittedly sometimes trying-too-hard) image, to the fetching lead singer, Chibi – we really love the band. So why does this album feel underwhelming. Largely this seems due to the fact that the band is very fond of recycling a sound. After listening to this album so often for so long we realized just how much their entire catalogue has a similar feel to so much of the rest of said catalogue. The guitars are as ever rocking hard (maybe a little more than usual vis-a-vis the accompanying electronics), the synths, as ever, plinky and spooky. Chibi is, as ever, lovely. They have a sound and boy, are they faithful to it.

The downside of this is a samey-same sound on far, far too many tracks on Pins and Needles. So much so that it becomes difficult to distinguish between the tracks. Case in point – your humble blogger is somewhat obsessed with the proper organization of the Softsynth iTunes library, so much so that it’s important to provide the “rating” for each song. Yet weeks into listening to this album only three of the eleven songs have any kind of rating at all – the rest have left so little impact that one simply  cannot say if these are good songs or dull ones. The jury remains largely still out. Chibi is on fine voice, the album is lovingly produced, the muscianship is rock-solid, but there’s a core of soul missing from the album. And it costs.

There are stand-out songs like the anthemic lead-off single “In the Dark”, catchy synth-pop-influenced “Always”,  and the more straight-forward electropop, and awesome “Shallow Grave”. Unfortunately, they are minority. Again, not one track on the album could be considered “bad” or even “unworthy”. There’s a catchiness that, at a minimum, keeps you listening (even after several weeks). But inspiration is in limited supply and it feels too much like a regurgitation of their last two albums to warrant any kind of large-scale embrace. The professionalism is to be admired but the guts and soul of the album feel simply too empty. They are a prolific band with some real historical successes which gives us great hope of a re-set, but a re-set is indeed much-needed.

Watch: In the Dark



One Response to “Review: The Birthday Massacre – Pins and Needles”

  1. Pretty much everything new I’ve heard this year has struck me in the way you describe here. Are our favorite artists running out of good ideas?

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