Every time I crack open a SPIN or FADER or Filter magazine and read about the latest electro flavor of the month with just a hint of glam-esque ambiguity and a line in emotional catharsis/cirrhosis, I'm just like, "Shit, man, you could just save yourself the trouble and write about Xiu Xiu." But Xiu Xiu's not an easy proposition; the project of Jamie Stewart and a constantly rotating lineup of collaborators and enablers aren't iPod-workout fodder or makeout party soundtracks -- this is truly uncomfortable and harrowing music.
Coming on like an unnatural hybrid of Coil, Whitehouse, Marc Almond, and Jim "Foetus" Thirlwell, Xiu Xiu is all about baring the uncomfortable fringes of what it means to be human and hurt, paring that to a visceral flash of electronics and postpunk boundary pushing. And like the best jazzmen, Stewart is continually shifting and altering the Xiu Xiu aesthetic. Each album adjusts, refines, or strips down the sonic template. Some are string-laden and discordant, some are fractured electronic pulsebeats, some are postpunk rainstorms. Hell, I heard about a now-legendary show in Austin where Stewart just sat in front of a piano and belted out song after song. And Xiu Xiu surely ain't LCD Soundsystem; this is all about purging and breakdowns. (Exhibit A: The near manic hysteria dripping from every screech, growl, and yelp on "I Luv Abortion.")
Always continues that systematic derangement of the emotions, and though the music is often more accomplished and propulsive than, say, Fabulous Muscles, songs are still apt to collapse into tearful shards at the slightest provocation. Thrilling music.