By RFT Music
By Drew Ailes
By Bob McMahon
By Allison Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By Carolina de Busto
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
Imagine, if you will, that you've suffered a string of unimaginable tragedies. Your mother died a few years back, your father has committed suicide, and you've seen molestation and degradation of all sorts and shapes. The natural human reaction is to form a response, to push back at the universe somehow.
If you're Jamie Stewart, main presence behind Xiu Xiu (pronounced "shoe shoe"), and these things happened to you (they did), your response is to transcribe it all in the most honest, brutal way possible. Rather than obfuscate the autobiographical portion of his music, Stewart cranks the knob to eleven, moaning and howling his songs about true, often repulsive stories of lust, death and other concerns over synth lines, guitar, noise and kitchen-sink found sound. What separates his melodrama from becoming penny-ante emo-esque pedantry is Stewart's ability to make it sound so real, and his music is saved from becoming a morose joke by an innate knack for a hook, even under a heavy layer of production grime. If Stephin Merritt spent time songwriting with Michael Gira, it would probably end up sounding like this.
Gira's quieter moments with Swans or the Angels of Light are probably the closest touchstones for Xiu Xiu, and live the band sounds both cringe-worthy and beautiful. Though not for most, Xiu Xiu offers true catharsis through extreme expression.