Xiu Xiu play pop music. You may not realize this at first, because of all
the clanging, squealing, screaming, moaning, static, and noise. Perhaps
they are disturbed. Perhaps they are doing the best they can with their
strange assortment of synths, drum machines, pots, and pans. Whatever is
the case, what they have created is truly bizarre and frighteningly
beautiful (or beautifully frightening, I'm not certain).
Though there is very little similarity in how they actually sound, the
group they most remind me of is the Pop Group. But, where the Pop Group
created terrorist dub rock, Xiu Xiu is working more in the proto-techno
new wave element. The similarity comes in how they tear apart a song and
rebuild it using their own peculiar set of musical terms, and in how they
each seem to be equally in love with snagging the listener on their hooks,
but making those hooks as jagged and dangerous as possible. You cannot
really dance to it, but it may knock you over, slackjawed.
There are some fantastic moments on this record, like on "Hives Hives"
where the singer croons about how he "can't wait to die, can't you tell,
can't you tell, can't you tell" over fuzzy shoegazer guitar, a couple of
hazy layers of synth, and incongruously clattering drums. Then all at once
the drums lock into a groove and the synths rise into squealing
dissonance. The chaos falls into place and falls apart again, but in such
unforced ways as to show that order and disorder are merely two sides of
the same coin. In "Don Diasco," abstract clangs give way to distorted
bursts and insane ramblings, finally to coalesce together with quirky
synth melodies into something that makes a kind of sense.
It doesn't always work, but Xiu Xiu has succeeded in creating something
original. It is so rare to encounter a truly unique voice, that we should
treasure these moments, no matter how crazy they are. This music hearkens
back to that time, just after punk was stillborn, when anything seemed
possible. Xiu Xiu seems intent on reclaiming that perfect moment of total
freedom where all of the sound could pour out of your mind and into the
atmosphere, when the more different you were, the better. Forget rock and
roll. Get a funny haircut. Change your name. Dance like a spaz.