RIYL: Dead Science, Parenthetical Girls, Mount Eerie but with true eerie
By this album, I think Xiu Xiu has reached the point where those who love them are obsessed and those who hate them have lost interest long ago. I consider myself in the first group, though I lived for a long few years in the latter and I can understand why people would choose to inhabit that sad place. Xiu Xiu are abrasive, atonal, uncomfortable, awkward and (everyone’s favorite word to describe things which make them nervous) experimental. But Xiu Xiu are still pop, which is something that a single listen to any of their albums won’t immediately let you know. This magnificent balance of sensibilities is why I believe that Jamie Stewart, the band’s front man, is one of the most original and talented songwriters still making music today.
That being said, my initial reaction to every Xiu Xiu album, including this one, that has come out ever since I got into them in 2004 with the release of Fabulous Muscles, has been complete disgust and disappointment–an initial feeling that gets quickly replaced by anger and inquisition and eventually by obsession and addiction. Falling in love with Xiu Xiu is not easy–but nothing that is worth loving comes easily. This album marks yet another step in their development–their first full length release on Kill Rock Stars (though I believe their previous label 5 Rue Christine has some sort of KRS connection) sounds to me like their most conventionally mixed album that still retains that strange lushness of another world that Xiu Xiu has managed to integrate into their music. You feel naked, alone, flawed and unprotected…but in a soft, child-like way that you wish you could grasp onto.
After repeated re-listens of Women as Lovers, the tracks finally made sense to me. Slowly all the beauty and understated choices that seem almost inadequate fall into place and the album makes sense as a whole. The cover of Under Pressure is the one track that I’m not fully in favor of–but then again, it’s a decent cover on its own. I believe that track one, ‘I Do What I want When I Want’, is the most catchy and accessible that Xiu Xiu has been in a long time…complete with a whistle duet. I’ve yet to meet one person who can listen to this song without humming it for hours. Track seven, Black Keyboard, is one of the most heartbreaking and emotionally moving songs Stewart has written while simultaneously being one of the least jarring. Puff and Bunny, track twelve, and You Are Pregnant You Are Dead are extremely listenable and have been on loop for my nighttime reading excursions for days. Track four, No Friend Oh!, is Xiu Xiu wearing their party outfit.
As a Xiu Xiu convert, I urge you to give this and older albums a thorough listen. I would start with Women as Lovers, The Air Force, Fabulous Muscles and La Foret. All of those albums definitely fall into my top 10 list for the years they were released in, without a doubt in my mind.