First Look: New Xiu Xiu LP

 

“Tossing an occasional sprinkle of sugar onto the lemon
rind”: Jamie Stewart drops
Always this week on Polyvinyl.

 

By A.D. Amorosi

The most noticeable thing about
the new Xiu Xiu album is (if you’re following XX, and if not, honestly, how did
you even come to get this record?) how disarmingly vibrant it sounds. The
penultimate American avant pop act whose focus is weird sex, incest, police
rape, evil military interaction, suicide and lonely despair known how to put a
cranky back-beat behind things (and a velvety sheen on top on their post-punk
bop) when they put its collective back into it. Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier
produced it, John Congleton (who did some work for the Roots) mixed it, and the
whole affair contains nods to c-c-chilly early Depeche Mode emotionalism, the
National’s buggy melodicism, scads of uneasy percussion, and the type of
queer-culture espirit that incubated Perfume Genius’s madness.

 

 


Beauty Towne by Xiu Xiu

 

 

Melodramatic Jamie Stewart is in
charge of the whole charred-earth experimentalism as always and he starts
proceedings off with the sort of giddy gory aplomb you can dance to. “If you’re
wasting your life, say hi/If you are alone tonight, say hi/If you wish you
should die, say hi-hi, hi-hi”…”If you have poked out your eyes say hi/If when
you open your arms Ferdinand gores you in the chest say hi.”

That song was “Hi.”
 

Equally evocative and provocative
but doubly experimental is “I Luv Abortion,” a toe curdling techno-beaten,
brass filled cut that portrays a woman’s personal horror with eerie earnestness
“When I look at my thighs I see death,” sings the song’s protagonist. Brisk and
forthright, Stewart is one of now-pop’s most bravely bodacious lyricists. Gay
bashing is faced down unblinkingly on ‘Smear the Queen” (“They bashed his teeth
in/Held his throat till he passed out”) with an equally bold soundtrack behind
its stark words. At his most melodramatically operatic Stewart sings “Gul
Mudin,” a song about an Afghani boy murdered by soldiers and backed by an
electronic sound-scape as violent as the slaughter. Still, there is room for
something tender. On his duet with Angel Seo, “Honeysuckle” Stewart big voice
buckles beneath the cool sonorous roboticism of his partner. While the lyrics
are heartbroken and despairing, the music is hopeful and chipper – breezy even.

 

Stewart and co. doesn’t mind
life’s sourest displays. They revel in it. As long as they can toss an
occasional sprinkle of sugar onto the lemon rind, all is right in Xiu Xiu’s
world.

 

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