Release Date: Feb 23, 2010
Record label: Kill Rock Stars
Genre(s): Indie, Alternative, Experimental
Prolific angst merchant delivers sonic adventure One of the most reliable sources of autobiographical despair, Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart would seem to have reached the point of self caricature with a title as over-the-top as Dear God, I Hate Myself. Fortunately, his scars run bone-deep. Earning its title, “Gray Death” is a harrowing synth-noise gem in which Stewart works himself into a fit of self-laceration, pleading for death while recounting the loss of a lover.
Dear God, I Hate Myself is such an apt title for a Xiu Xiu album that it borders on self-parody. That’s not the case with these songs, but Jamie Stewart and company’s sense of humor and pop sensibilities are more prominent here than they have been since Fabulous Muscles. The band is still breaking boundaries when it comes to presenting unflinchingly honest confessions and questions in unpredictably sweet wrappers, especially on “Chocolate Makes You Happy” -- few other bands could combine such a seemingly naïve sentiment with lyrics like “oh, to curse life,” or mix the theme of purging with a melody so sugary it’s practically covered in sprinkles.
Professional athletes who manage lengthy careers fall into two broad categories. There are the All-Star level talents who quickly become the focal points of their respective franchises, the image of a team’s public face, and the ambassador of team-fan relations. Those below that tier, who wish to remain employed for a decade or longer, carve out a niche for themselves by doing one specific, inimitable thing consistently and well.
As much as this may feel like the truth, it’s somewhat unfair to call Xiu Xiu a band defined by unfulfilled promise. Because for the group, helmed by Jamie Stewart with a singular sense of affected batshit insanity, the things that make it good are the same things that make it bad: the flair for tawdry hysterical fatalism, the idiotic lyrical tangents, the buzzing, stylistically swerving compositions. It all depends on the measure.
Mixing classic composition, free jazz, techno, post punk, the occasional folk traditional, gamelan, and probably many more things most of us have never heard of, Xiu Xiu has sliced a schizoid bent so peculiar, so abrasive, that it’s sure to inspire some combination of allegiance, disgust and confusion. There’s so much distraction and digression in Xiu Xiu, it’s easy to forget that when songwriter Jamie Stewart sits down to write a pop song—clenched falsetto and T.M.I. psychosexual torments notwithstanding—he kills it.
Jamie Stewart has always worked with a rotating cast in Xiu Xiu, including Cory McCulloch and Deerhoof's Greg Saunier. But Stewart's strong personality made it feel like a solo project-- at least until Caralee McElroy came along. It's not immediately obvious why she would become so strongly associated with Xiu Xiu by fans, in a way prior collaborators weren't.
“If you are expecting consolation / I will become outrageous / If you expect me to be outrageous / I will be extra outrageous. ” Considering this is the sort of statement that would have most sensible people instinctively bunching their fists if they encountered it on a Big Brother audition tape, or a profile on a dating website, it’s a brave move from Jamie Stewart to bust it out in the first minute of the seventh album by Xiu Xiu, the Californian band generally thought of as Stewart’s muse. ‘Course, if you are familiar with Jamie Stewart you will probably think it fair to say that he specialises in what you might call brave moves; and if not, well, you can see what he’s called this record.
Jamie Stewart certainly isn't shy when it comes to tackling difficult emotional topics or exploring them with bile and occasional vulnerability. Dear God, I Hate Myself continues that bravery, a disc full of goth-pop nuggets, the odd blast of cranky guitar, and Stewart’s vocals, which always straddle the line between revelation and artsy navel-gazing.Stewart produced the album with help from Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier, and this edition of Xiu Xiu also features Angela Seo, whose keys and drum programming are now official components of the band. Four of the dozen songs were recorded using a Nintendo DS video-game system, but only the title track is a successful result of that endeavor.
Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart has always had an air of ridiculousness about him. With a quavering sad-sack voice that comes off as a cross between Edwyn Collins and Robert Smith of the Cure, Stewart is always crooning about his existential misery as if he’s about to collapse into a convulsive, blubbering heap. Reasonably by this point in the group’s career, we should just accept it as a characteristic quirk of the band’s sound.
As engagingly weird as anything before it, but this flows so much better. Alex Tudor 2010 Way back when, Kurt Cobain was denied an album title much like Xiu Xiu’s on the grounds of damaging sales. Mega-sales aren’t a problem for Jamie Stewart, however, who has in the past made being an Ian Curtis and Morrissey fan into an artform, while ensuring the music never becomes too easy on the ear.
Paul Motian, Chris Potter,and Jason Moran So much about jazz, at its higher levels, has to do with an end run around erudition. There’s not much art in methodology, not inherently, so a great soloist works past it without quite letting it go. The drummer Paul Motian is a genius when it comes to ….