Xiu Xiu - OH NO Music Album Reviews

Xiu Xiu - OH NO Music Album Reviews
Jamie Stewart duets with more than a dozen indie, punk, and experimental music colleagues, and what results is a surprisingly sweet meditation on friendship, with nary a try-hard shock to be found.

It’s difficult to be a Xiu Xiu fan, mostly because it means you have to listen to so much Xiu Xiu music. Sharon Van Etten seems to acknowledge this at the beginning of OH NO, when she asks Jamie Stewart: “What were you doing there, so un-anxious to be liked?” That’s the question regarding a glorious, terrible, improbable body of work that has shades of The Velvet Underground, Suicide, and Einstürzende Neubauten but really sounds only like itself.

Though Xiu Xiu is now a duo with Angela Seo, Stewart is the lifetime member. He’s spent the last 20 years blazing an illegible path, musically and morally, between queer politics and shock-jock shtick, radical vulnerability and repugnant cruelty, good faith and bad taste. The music varies wildly in style—from punky folk and dreamy pop to experimental electronics and harsh noise, all teeming with global instruments—and quality, from the heart-filled zenith of “I Luv the Valley, OH!” to the heartless nadir of “I Luv Abortion.” For every song you’d defend with your last breath, there’s another you couldn’t defend with your first. Most perverse is when they blend into the likes of “Ale,” a gorgeous tune about telling an overweight woman playing GameCube to shut up.

It wasn’t always this way. The urge to disturb has been part of Xiu Xiu since the beginning, but there’s something elemental and pure about those early releases, which calibrated their shocks with tenderness and grace, brilliantly modulating danger and desire in mini-masterpieces like “Fabulous Muscles.” Such moments are scattered across Xiu Xiu’s later days, but the signal-to-noise ratio decidedly shifted. Shock art has to shock itself, and gradually it grows numb. The music got sprawlier, louder, more hectoring; the targets of Stewart’s disgust grew increasingly outlandish; there were chiptune experiments and free-jazz Nina Simone covers; the lyrics developed a worrisome onomatopoeia habit. At last check, Stewart was up to his old tricks on the bombastic Girl With Basket of Fruit, the title track of which contains lines like “A flock of erect dicks on bat wings pee-pees into her sleeping face.”

This is why a record as modest as OH NO, on which Stewart duets with more than a dozen indie, punk, and experimental music friends, feels disproportionately appealing. One hesitates to say he’s “grown up,” both because it’s a condescending cliché and because he’ll probably come back with an album called I Luv COVID or something. But OH NO, which is reportedly about a personal betrayal, comes out as a pretty sweet meditation on friendship, with nary a try-hard shock to be found. The collaborations clear the clotted atmosphere and perhaps have a tempering effect. You probably don’t get Sharon Van Etten in the studio by asking her to sing about clubbing baby seals over a bunch of crashing sounds.

Still, OH NO sounds more like a regular Xiu Xiu album than its track list would suggest. Apparently, singing with Stewart makes you sing like Stewart—that is to say in a kind of sinister mumble, stretching out melodies so they creep more than they stick. But given space to breathe, Stewart’s gifts as a vocal performer and sound arranger result in elegant, habitable art-pop, more along the lines of latter-day These New Puritans than GG Allin.

The darkest moments here tend to be closer to comical than harrowing. On the ambient pop charmer “I Cannot Resist,” featuring 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 plants want to kill us, and features Newsom-like lists of whimsical animal names. Angus Andrew from Liars shows up to rant about Flaming Hot Cheetos and Fuego Takis on an unabashedly silly ESG pastiche called “Rumpus Room.”

More affecting is the melancholy and remorse that floats through songs with Circuit Des Yeux, Susanne Sachsse, Twin Shadow, Liz Harris of Grouper, and Chelsea Wolfe, who appears for an emphatic cover of The Cure’s “One Hundred Years.” As signs of Xiu Xiu mellowing go, could you ask for more than duets with Owen Pallett and Jonathan Meiburg from Shearwater? By not trying to shock us, Stewart actually surprises us, and OH NO makes it easier to be a Xiu Xiu fan than it’s been in years.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Xiu Xiu - OH NO Music Album Reviews Xiu Xiu - OH NO Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on April 05, 2021 Rating: 5


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