Xiu Xiu return, bloody and harrowing as ever | Bleader

Xiu Xiu return, bloody and harrowing as ever

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Xiu Xius Jamie Stewart
  • Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart
I've enjoyed a lot of the music that Bay Area group Xiu Xiu has made over the years, though "enjoy" might not be the appropriate verb. Group leader Jamie Stewart has always seemed intent on making you uncomfortable—he uses dissonant arrangements and harsh textures, ugly and unexpurgated subject matter, and a vocal style that often suggests someone hysterical and distraught caterwauling from a skyscraper window ledge. I decided I needed a break from Xiu Xiu a couple of years ago, after watching the video for their song "Dear God, I Hate Myself," which features Stewart's bandmate Angela Seo forcing herself to puke all over the nonplussed singer while he nonchalantly munches on a chocolate bar. But the group's latest album, Always (Polyvinyl), has enough great music that I'm giving them another shot.

The new album was produced with Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier and ranges from almost pretty ballads to abrasive, noisy dirges; the arrangements expertly collide electronic beats and tones with acoustic instruments. Among the contributors are bassist (and former Chicagoan) Devin Hoff, drummer Ches Smith, singer Carla Bozulich, and Deerhoof guitarist John Dieterich. Stewart's lyrics remain brutal psychodramas, sometimes so unrelenting that you feel like the only possible response is to laugh and break the tension: "Smear the queen / They bashed his teeth in with an elbow cast / Held his throat 'til he passed out / Count the men inside your mouth." Below you can watch the video for "Honey-Suckle," which doesn't get any grosser than a bloody apple and some violent tooth brushing. Xiu Xiu—for this tour just Stewart and Seo—perform at Lincoln Hall on Thursday night.

Xiu Xiu, "Honey-Suckle"

photo: Jeremy Lange

Today's playlist:

Gräwe, Reijseger and Hemingway, Continuum (Winter & Winter)
Wendy & Bonnie, Genesis (Sundazed)
Various artists, Bongo Flava: Swahili Rap From Tanzania (Out Here)
John Lewis, The John Lewis Piano (Atlantic)
Harry Taussig, Fate Is Only Once (Tompkins Square)

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