This all by way of passing comment on the challenging Xiu Xiu, never an easy thing to do. A couple of years ago I talked to the band’s main male Jamie Stewart. He was forthcoming and amenable, not a difficult artiste, and he talked about what he does with a seriousness that I liked very much. He thinks he’s a cranky, pretentious arsehole, but I don’t. Anyway, I do think it’s interesting that Stewart’s openly human persona doesn’t always reconcile with the often sonically and lyrically traumatized music he makes. There is some backstory: He told me about his father, a drug addict who died by suicide. It’s hard for me now to not project a lot of liteweight pop psychology upon Stewart’s musical madness. Like, a-ha
No, no, this music is not mad at all. It’s considered, and has solid intellectual rigour behind it. Superficially, Xiu Xiu’s Girl With Basket of Fruit is either like a truly scary monster movie or a wicked bad bummer nightmare, the kind that follows you into the next day and stinks up your whole morning and with bum luck your entire day. Which is to say that it’s got that certain something that is entrancing, at least alluring. It’s horrifying, and it’s funny. It’s devastating.
The new album’s title references a Caravaggio print called Boy With Basket of Fruit. The record’s billions upon zillions of digitally diced, cornholed and creamed words and sounds were created by Stewart; longtime collaborator Angela Seo played on and co-produced it, along with Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier; the current lineup also includes Swans’ Thor Harris and bassist Devin Hoff; Oxbow singer Eugene Robinson puts in an appearance, as do several other non-genre-music luminaries.
Stewart has said that usually, Xiu Xiu songs are narratives about the internal effects of external events, but for this new album, the lyrics were mostly derived from the “internal effects of internal events”: he is reacting to other people’s texts and images. Among the album’s subject matters are disease, murder, lynchings, the debasement of women, environmental ruin, the end of Earth, art history, music itself, and pinhead nostalgia for a Freedom Fries world that was, in hindsight, never all that great to begin with. . .
To read the rest of Payne’s review, go to Riot Material magazine: https://www.riotmaterial.com/xiu-xiu-girl-with-basket-of-fruit/
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