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Xiu Xiu – Life and Live

Xeng Records, 2005

Well, where to start.  I will tell you that I have owned this album twice, but I will relate the story of how I picked it up the first time.  If you’ve read enough of the blog beforehand, I tend to pick up music that is on the loud side of the musical spectrum.  To shake things up, I sometimes go for colorful indie pop or solo artist releases.  However, in this case I wanted to pick up a random album from a band that I had heard of in passing as being a somewhat well regarded indie artist.  I didn’t know much about the group but thought that they chose a nice picture for the cover.  There it is, that’s what I went on.  Xiu flippin’ Xiu.

This has to be one of the most sparse, depressing, and agitating albums I’ve ever listened to.  It’s a recording of live Xiu Xiu (pronounced shoe-shoe) songs that mostly consist of a plucked guitar and brooding vocals.  I guess there are a few members in the band, but it sounds as if it’s just Jamie Stewart singing and the rest of them are just standing around looking morose.  It doesn’t sound like he needs any help in bringing the tears.

Since I’m not in the mood right now to listen to this music to such depth so that its crippling sadness could overtake me, I’ll keep it brief.  The track that epitomizes the album is “King Earth, King Earth”.  Stewart sings, which is really just him quivering bits and pieces before hiding for a few moments.  The instrumentation sounds like either a keyboard or a very shaky accordion.  Doing a little research, the lyrics “the dead bury their own dead” and “angel wear your ‘pray hard’ shirt” stand out a little bit.  This song goes on for nearly six minutes.  Folks, this is agony.

Other songs that raise an eyebrow are “Thanks Japan!”, which sounds like one of the band members left a recorder on while walking through a Japanese airport.  “Sad Pony Guerrilla Girl” contains some yelping by Stewart.  Actually, there’s also a part where it sounds like he’s being strangled but the strangler gets interrupted. He or she must have sensed that my eyes were hurting from rolling so much and attacked.  I do not condone violence, strangler dude … but yeah, it was getting annoying.  “Jennifer Lopez” does have an introduction that sounds like the Doctor Who theme, which is kinda cool.  Oh enough of this!

You wanna listen to Xiu Xiu?  Fine.  YOU listen.  Maybe reading is more your thing.

On “I Broke Up” someone actually tells Stewart to sing slower.  That adviser should be slapped.  To think that I’ve actually owned this album twice in my travels makes me feel a little sad in of itself.  Truth is, I’ve been able to trade this album to someone else who was interested.  Someone wanted to hear Xiu Xiu.  Whew … I gotta say they can’t be all that fun at parties.  Though I have tried a few times to get caught up with some of the more name acts in the modern indie world, this group I want no further part of.  In a slow arc filled with irony and self-resentment, I shoot Xiu Xiu into the Golden Trash Can of woe.

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