Hide and Seek by the Birthday Massacre
The Hide and Seek album by the Birthday Massacre came out in 2012. It’s 36 minutes of classic TBM with a twist…
It’s not often you like every single song a band has released. Let’s be realistic here – we all have our own opinions, writing style changes over time, and sometimes bands lose their way or quixotically release an oddity album that the majority of people are bitterly disappointed in. (But that’s okay, we still love them anyway). The Birthday Massacre are incredibly special to me because I can hand-on-heart say I love everything they’ve ever released. And that’s the truth.
Formed in 1999, The Birthday Massacre are respected in the music industry and they’re successful too… but they’ve always remained under the radar and are not recognised enough to my liking. Like a good cheese, one with blue veins in maybe, their music improves as the band matures. They keep on making the music, and I keep on listening. I guess… neither of us can help ourselves.
The distinctive TBM sound is best described by my throwing a mish-mash of words at you. Imagine beauty mixed with melancholy, darkness, wonder, unfathomable nostalgia, and every feeling you experience on seeing a shadow lurking in the corner of your room. It’s like that. They have a knack for conveying vivid imagery in their songs that seems almost child-like at times while remaining dark and gothic.
Before ‘Hide and Seek’ was officially released in October 2012, I watched the YouTube previews and – surprisingly for me – I wasn’t won over on a first listen. “Right,” I said. “This is it. They’ve reached their peak and it’s downhill from here.”
Man, I was so wrong. And I’m glad I was…
Hide and Seek… Hunting the Songs Down One at a Time
The album starts with Leaving Tonight, opening with TBM’s trademark and ever-welcome rainfall and background soundscapes, leading into crisp synth and a catchy beat. It feels like vocalist Chibi has either powered up her voice or her singing’s been given more prominence in the album production. Her beautiful voice sounds so much stronger than her days of being a ghostly background addition on older albums like Walking With Strangers (2007). Coming back to the subject at hand, ‘Leaving Tonight’ is an all-round ‘jumpy’ sort of song – a lovely way to welcome listeners and get them to take their first steps on the musical journey ahead. My only criticism? The song (and album) has great atmosphere and lifts my spirits every time I hear it, but I agree with the many fans who say that older TBM work used to have greater lyrical depth. ‘Hide and Seek’ strength lies in its sounds rather than its lyrics. As the catchy beat of ‘Leaving Tonight’ fades to rainfall, you’re lulled into a false sense of comfort for the beginning of ‘Down’…
Down is one of the strongest tracks on the album. Introduced by the ticking of a grandfather clock (an echo, perhaps, of earlier works like ‘Science’ on the ‘Walking With Strangers’ album), ‘Down’ promptly segues into a guitar explosion and a badass heavy riff that doesn’t let up until an abrupt end. The bridge and catchy chorus (“We all fall down…”) are traditional TBM, and the snarling vocals seem somewhat rough and out of place until you’ve given the song a chance with repeat listens. With echoes of ‘Blue’ (‘Violet’, 2005), an incredible amount of detail is put into the layering, pace and structure of ‘Down’ and the effort has paid off.
The third track on the album and my absolute favourite, Play With Fire is a song I’ve been itching to review. It never fails to give me goosebumps. From the initial ghostly ambience of twinkling chimes it explodes into darkly twisted beauty with its mesmerising pitter-patter of synth, a familiar sound that brings back memories of ‘Queen of Hearts’. Listen to it at night with your bass turned up, because you’ll be completely submerged into the music, listening raptly as Chibi tells us in a gentle rasp that “We will, play with fire…” Lyrics on this song are few and far between, often repeated, and they’re executed brilliantly. Out of all the songs on the album, if you’re not familiar with The Birthday Massacre then this is a great place to start.
Bouncy and fun, the irresistable drum beats on Need are what holds the song together. As Chibi warns us, “You’re a curse”, you realise that this song is an infection, you’ve just caught it and you have no intention of healing yourself. Give in to the pull of ‘Need’ and listen to it on repeat.
Calling, another strong contender for best songs on the album, has the strongest lyrics of them all and the lovely melodic use of the synth adds compelling structure. Alibis, One Promise, and In This Moment come next, boasting quirky beats and that iconic TBM synth… but they feel weak in comparison to the rest of the album. There’s nothing wrong with the tracks. They’re just a touch overshadowed by ‘Down’ and ‘Play With Fire’.
Get ready for a change of tone as the album draws to a close, because outro songs Cover My Eyes and The Long Way Home take on a more sombre tone. Chilling, even. ‘Cover My Eyes’ has a slow, slow beat that’ll leave you consumed with nostalgia. “Remember the sun, remember the rain, they’re never gonna touch me again tonight…”
Lastly, The Long Way Home is the perfect end to a powerful album. I always seem to forget how good it is until I put it on. Chibi’s almost angelic chorus is layered perfectly with underlying male vocals, and there is a surprising but very effective sort of 8-bit effect in the second verse. ‘The Long Way Home’ will most likely cause a few goosebumps. The clever bit? It finishes quite suddenly and you are left wanting… more.
The Birthday Massacre have also released an accompanying instrumental named Night Shift, which is almost like a preview of the whole album to come. It’s drenched with atmosphere and definitely worth listening to. If you are a TBM fan you will be aware of their other instrumentals, ‘Night Loop’ and ‘Nowhere’ being the most iconic, and even though ‘Night Shift’ is more guitar-based than the previous instrumentals, it doesn’t fail in comparison.
Overall, ‘Hide and Seek’ is a very well written, beautiful album, with each track delivering a unique spin on the trademark TBM lyrics and sounds. The only real disappointment I had was that it only lasts 36 minutes long. It’s not a complaint… but with an album this good, I’d love to hear more. TBM have always had the ability to switch from one emotion to another with just one note change, and they provide the listener with multi-layered music that is very easy to become addicted to. The more I listen to ‘Hide and Seek’, the more I fall in love with the songs, and realise just how much of a staple album this is for The Birthday Massacre.
Download the MP3 album of Hide And Seek