Release Date: Mar 6, 2012
Record label: Polyvinyl
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Post-Rock, Experimental Rock
No one does ugly like Xiu Xiu — ugly sex, ugly feelings, ugly America. The band’s queerness goes hand-in-hand (fist-in-ass) with its unrelenting abrasiveness. Its iconoclasm is born from the spew and spittle of abjection — all the dirt and rage of the rooms behind the rooms of the dive bar. Their latest, Always, opens with a call-out to anyone with a slit wrist, a rag in their mouth, anyone who wants to die, anyone already dead, anyone who’s simply alone tonight — and then proceeds to revel, madly, in this derelict community.
So you’re a freak. You’re a queer in a world full of right-wing lunatics and jocks who want you to die. You recoil in horror at the exploitation, destruction, macho war mongering, sexism and racism which exist all around you. Bad things have happened to your friends and family. You were bullied ….
Jamie Stewart and crew celebrated the tenth anniversary of Xiu Xiu's formation with Always, an album that sounds like the culmination of where the band has been and what they mean to their listeners. Indeed, Always is dedicated to the band's fans -- as if the cover image of a fan's Xiu Xiu tattoo wasn't enough of a hint -- and many of the best moments feel like rallying cries for them. "Hi" kicks things off with one of the album's most obvious love letters to Xiu Xiu's devoted, as Stewart goes through a roll call of the outcasts and the heartbroken, while "Born to Suffer" and "Honey Suckle," a duet with Angela Seo, both use synth strings and brass to emphasize their anthemic sweep.
It still seems odd to hear Xiu Xiu leader Jamie Stewart at the helm of pop song, as if his dark and unflinching worldview might actually have room for some kind of joy. To be sure, there’s always been a sense that he’d been searching for it, but it’s also like a dog chasing a car, or like maybe Stewart was getting off on being miserable. Maybe that’s a projection.
By now, you know what you're in for when you put on a new Xiu Xiu record. The songs on the project's latest, Always, would easily fit elsewhere in Jamie Stewart's disquieting catalogue. The music bounces from the shrill synths and howls of pro-choice anthem "I Luv Abortion" to the gentle whimper of the piano ballad "The Oldness", and it's all laced together with too-close-for-comfort lyrics like, "Satan's cock/ Hell is hot," and, "Your father was the first man inside of you." Which is to say that the record functions as a well-executed sampler of the magnified pain and horror we've come to expect from this band.
It has become an American tradition: gathering the kids around the phonograph in the living room, you and the missus in matching footie pajamas, your after-work hair tussled just so, a round of big glasses of whole milk in Bobby and Suzie’s little hands, all of your loved ones together in one place to have a listen to the new Xiu Xiu record. “This is the worst vacation ever,” harmonizes tiny Bobby, “I’m going to cut open your forehead with a roofing shingle. ” Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart has spent the last decade (!) creating one of the most coherent, immediately recognizable aural worlds in contemporary music.
“[i]If you are wasting your life, say ‘Hi’/If you are alone tonight, say ‘Hi’[/i]” (‘Hi’) may be as direct an opening gambit as they come, but it cuts straight to San Jose synth-punks’ Xiu Xiu’s core. Often shocking and consistently, unapologetically direct, every word and note here is positively swollen with meaning – from Jamie Stewart’s quivering, broken vocal on ‘Honeysuckle’ to the harrowed orchestration of ‘Black Drum Machine’.But instead of preaching from the martyred pedestal of artistic alienation, underneath the despair (and ‘Always’, as always with Xiu Xiu, is riddled with despair) is an open hand; we might all be screwed, but at least we’re in this together.[i]Lisa Wright[/i] .
For a band so often considered combative and difficult, Xiu Xiu's latest album, Always, is surprisingly inviting. Frontman Jamie Stewart starts the record with "Hi," a song that offers all sorts of people the chance to greet him. It's the sort of broken, damaged folks you'd expect -- "If you have poked out your eyes, say hi" and so forth -- but it still inverts the isolation and depravity we tend to hear from Stewart on his records.
Xiu XiuAlways[Polyvinyl; 2012]By Chris Bosman; March 5, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetWhen I was twelve years old, a girl in my class got pregnant. She was kind of disowned from her family and she couldn't afford day care. It didn't matter. She still had to go to school and in the middle of enduring the taunts and mockery, she had to take care of her kid.
Music for those comforted by blood, sweat and tears. Martin Aston 2012 Except for Jamie Stewart’s love of cuddly stuffed toys and equally cute kittens, the world according to Xiu Xiu is not pretty. "If your bed is a living hell, say hi / If you’ve poked out your eyes, say hi," he sings on the opening Hi, his invite to the lost, lonely and quite possibly self-harming conveyed via a deep vocal that sounds like the verge of a nervous breakdown.
From the brain of Jamie Stewart, architect of experimental outfit Xiu Xiu, comes their eleventh album, ‘Always’. An enterprise that has spanned ten albums, a decade of performing and a revolving door policy of band members is difficult to summarise to those unschooled in the phenomenon that is Xiu Xiu. Encompassing punk, synth and rock influences, the history of the band is musically rich, varied, and controversial.