In the Birthday Massacre’s “Happy Birthday”—it’s the Song That Mentions the Band’s Name in the Lyrics—lead singer Chibi goes with her friend to a birthday party. In the CD booklet Chibi’s wearing a black schoolgirly uniform, but to the party she wears her “black-and-white dress.” Chibi and her friend brutally kill everyone at the party, call each other “Murder Tramp” and “Murder Boy,” and run back to her room, Chibi in her “black-and-red dress.” This little offhand detail that’d feel equally appropriate on either Nebraska or a piece of self-aware pop art (same thing?) neatly sums up the Massacre’s cute-goth shtick and breathes life into Violet, their Metropolis debut. Any true goth schoolgirl would delight in her dress enough to mention it in two different verses and consider the murders secondary to their sartorial and social consequences.
Chibi’s lucky, because her four murder-boy bandmates play right along. The equally sparky “Blue” alternates between plinky synthpop verses featuring a sweet, pining Chibi and thundering metal refrains whispered by a different Chibi, murderous and rasping. The separation of the two makes the song fun. During most of the other tunes dramatic synth shrieks, helicopter sequencing, and power chords coexist, and it all sounds great—second for second, maybe the best-sounding CD all year—but the melodies aren’t always there, and the words often fade into generality. In “Blue,” singer and instrumentalists realize what fun it is to veer from wistful sadness to heavy rage, and that over-the-top distinction translates into joy for us, even though we don’t really feel their pain. The Massacre use pain more as a genre template, anyway; though the lyrics are full of suffocating lovers and blood, the band gets off more on brattiness (like in “Nevermind,” when Chibi kisses off the square she met at her parents’ Christmas party) and color—in addition to “Blue” and the title track, there are “Red” and “Black” instrumentals and attractive sleeve art.
How fitting, then, that Idiot Pilot’s tech-metal fusion Strange We Should Meet Here opens with a song called “Losing Color,” and the CD’s cover features a brown-and-black dead tree. Days of the New IV? Afraid not. The only tune with any presence is protest song “To Buy a Gun,” which harks back to the brief heyday of mid-’90s tech-metal gun rock, epitomized by “Hey Man, Nice Shot” and Moby’s “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver” (the heyday was brief). Otherwise, the two Idiot Pilots do everything they can to make their music interesting, but to little avail. They program tricky drum’n’bass rattles, many of which have been done better by my mid-’90s minivan’s engine. They ram metal screams into lugubrious Britpop moans, which might’ve been recorded inside said minivan’s gas tank. But in the end, the minivan’s owner’s manual has more personality.
Idiot Pilot play Crash Mansion September 15.