It’s troublesome to be a Xiu Xiu fan, largely as a result of it means you must take heed to a lot Xiu Xiu music. Sharon Van Etten appears to acknowledge this at the start of OH NO, when she asks Jamie Stewart: “What have been you doing there, so un-anxious to be preferred?” That’s the query concerning an excellent, horrible, unbelievable physique of labor that has shades of The Velvet Underground, Suicide, and Einstürzende Neubauten however actually sounds solely like itself.
Although Xiu Xiu is now a duo with Angela Search engine optimization, Stewart is the lifetime member. He’s spent the final 20 years blazing an illegible path, musically and morally, between queer politics and shock-jock shtick, radical vulnerability and repugnant cruelty, good religion and dangerous style. The music varies wildly in fashion—from punky people and dreamy pop to experimental electronics and harsh noise, all teeming with international devices—and high quality, from the heart-filled zenith of “I Luv the Valley, OH!” to the heartless nadir of “I Luv Abortion.” For each track you’d defend along with your final breath, there’s one other you couldn’t defend along with your first. Most perverse is once they mix into the likes of “Ale,” a stunning tune about telling an obese girl enjoying GameCube to close up.
It wasn’t at all times this fashion. The urge to disturb has been a part of Xiu Xiu because the starting, however there’s one thing elemental and pure about these early releases, which calibrated their shocks with tenderness and style, brilliantly modulating hazard and want in mini-masterpieces like “Fabulous Muscular tissues.” Such moments are scattered throughout Xiu Xiu’s later days, however the signal-to-noise ratio decidedly shifted. Shock artwork has to shock itself, and regularly it grows numb. The music acquired sprawlier, louder, extra hectoring; the targets of Stewart’s disgust grew more and more outlandish; there have been chiptune experiments and free-jazz Nina Simone covers; the lyrics developed a worrisome onomatopoeia behavior. Ultimately test, Stewart was as much as his previous methods on the bombastic Woman With Basket of Fruit, the title monitor of which incorporates strains like “A flock of erect dicks on bat wings pee-pees into her sleeping face.”
Because of this a document as modest as OH NO, on which Stewart duets with greater than a dozen indie, punk, and experimental music mates, feels disproportionately interesting. One hesitates to say he’s “grown up,” each as a result of it’s a condescending cliché and since he’ll in all probability come again with an album known as I Luv COVID or one thing. However OH NO, which is reportedly a couple of private betrayal, comes out as a reasonably candy meditation on friendship, with nary a try-hard shock to be discovered. The collaborations clear the clotted ambiance and maybe have a tempering impact. You in all probability don’t get Sharon Van Etten within the studio by asking her to sing about clubbing child seals over a bunch of crashing sounds.
Nonetheless, OH NO sounds extra like a daily Xiu Xiu album than its monitor record would counsel. Apparently, singing with Stewart makes you sing like Stewart—that’s to sayin a form of sinister mumble, stretching out melodies so that they creep greater than they stick. However given area to breathe, Stewart’s items as a vocal performer and sound arranger lead to elegant, liveable art-pop, extra alongside the strains of latter-day These New Puritans than GG Allin.
The darkest moments right here are usually nearer to comical than harrowing. On the ambient pop charmer “I Can not Resist,” that includes Deb Demure, the sound of a head rolling down stairs is given as “bing bong bonk-o bung.” The Greg Saunier collab, “Goodbye for Good,” is about how vegetation need to kill us, and options Newsom-like lists of whimsical animal names. Angus Andrew from Liars exhibits as much as rant about Flaming Scorching Cheetos and Fuego Takis on an unabashedly foolish ESG pastiche known as “Rumpus Room.”
Extra affecting is the melancholy and regret that floats via songs with Circuit Des Yeux, Susanne Sachsse, Twin Shadow, Liz Harris of Grouper, and Chelsea Wolfe, who seems for an emphatic cowl of The Cure’s “One Hundred Years.” As indicators of Xiu Xiu mellowing go, might you ask for greater than duets with Owen Pallett and Jonathan Meiburg from Shearwater? By not making an attempt to shock us, Stewart really surprises us, and OH NO makes it simpler to be a Xiu Xiu fan than it’s been in years.
Purchase: Rough Trade
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