Nation of Shopkeepers
As you make your way towards the stage the singer’s manic eyes swivel, taking you in like a freaky Chucky Doll. Tonight is Halloween, and Happy Birthday make a suitably creepy showing. Doling out candy treats with a wandering air of malice, ‘Girls FM’ is given a freak-out makeover that would make The Ramones weep with envy. Taking the simple pop song and giving it back its sweetness, the hooks are unshakeable and the lyrics wonderfully damaged. Creating pop anti-hero characters straight out of Ghost World, ‘Perverted Girl’ and ‘Maxine the Teenage Eskimo’ tap firmly into feelings of teenage self-loathing with shimmying beats bothering awkward school disco corners and the dance-floor full of vampires with melting face paint. “Oh my god, it’s Clark Kent,” laughs singer Kyle as a crowd member rips off his suit to reveal his Superman costume. Playing live as a four piece the band add squirly keyboards to the inverted bass and subtly shifting drums that turn ‘Subliminal Message’ from a feverish diary scrawl into an alt-pop classic as Beetlejuice slowdances into the night with Ghostface. Happy Birthday are here to remind us that we are ‘the Jock, the Brain, the Criminal, the Princess and the Kook’, and that none of that matters, especially when you’re dressed like the undead.
By Kate Parkin
Originally published in issue 23 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. November 2010