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The first in our series of reports from the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas:

THE BIRTHDAY MASSACRE Like many industrial goths beforethem, these eyeliner-friendly Canadians (pictured) embrace crunching power chords, sneeringexpressions, and track titles like “Horror Show.” But these ‘Birthday’ boys (andgirl) will not be typecast so easily. Breaking from their genre’s strictcodes, the Massacre showed off broad smiles, jump-aroundexuberance, and a contagious playfulness live. As her male bandmates thrashed andwailed (all while wearing spiffy goth-mobster duds), inky-haired singer Chibiadded sly vulnerability to the devastating thunder with her versatilevocals. Tying it all together were instantly memorable songs and melodies rarelyfound amidst such heavy tones. The walloping synth-fest “Video Kid” justlysummaries this unique brood’s pulverizing pop appeal. Download the track for free atSXSW’s site.

addCredit(“The Birthday Massacre: Ryan Dombal”)

RUMBLE STRIPS As a rule, rock groups featuringsaxophones and trumpets have a hard time being cool. Clarence Clemons and the EStreet Band notwithstanding, most horn-laden gangs make music that’s inexcusablycheesy, unbearably kitschy, or just plain ska-wful. But Brit quartet RumbleStrips defy the odds with catchy tunes that often feature both marching bandstaples in full blare. Led by heartthrob lead singer-guitarist Charlie Waller,the band impressed with an unerring set of taught tracks reminiscent of the Jamand Elvis Costello. A natural frontman with a tender-yet-robust voice, Wallersometimes recalled another Elvis with his aching delivery,rolled-up sleeves, and upturned collar. Take a wonderfully bumpy ride with thesecharming English gentlemen on their “Motorcycle.” Download the track for free atSXSW’s site.

SERENA MANEESH Jumbling the Jimi HendrixExperience’s psychedelic freak-outs with My Bloody Valentine’s blurry guitarsymphonies, Oslo’s Serena Maneesh know theirway around six-string bluster in concert. And, based on leader Emil Nikolaisen’sinteresting attire (a shawl/cape that looked at once like a rug and a doilytethered to a ridiculously ruffled shirt), Serena Maneesh aren’t interested inconforming to, well, just about anything. Within their wild set, the groupsqueezed, rung, and slammed notes out of their guitars, offeringtribute to their forebears while attempting to break out with a distinct styleof their own. Whether they succeeded in that quest is debatable, but the dreamygrace of their track “Un-Deux” is not. Download the track for free atSXSW’s site.

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