I’ll admit, at first I could not understand Xiu Xiu. The music was dark and weird, with theatrically brooding vocals. Dear God, I Hate Myself was the name of the albumI purchased, and maybe it was the blatant title, or the stark artwork that drew me in. The opening line, “beat beat me to death / I said it,” shocked me and was somewhat sickening, but the acoustic guitar strumming over the cold drums was hypnotizing. I was lost in it. Twelve tracks later, I found myself asking “what did I just hear?” It was emotional battery at its finest, placed over avant-garde, electro-laced pop.
The band’s name, pronounced “shoo shoo,” comes from a 1998 Chinese film of the same name. While these obscure references are riddled throughout the band’s songs, their sensibility for pop music is brought forth continuously. Frontman Jamie Stewart has expressed his affinity for radio pop, and over the years has covered songs from artists such as Rihanna, Queen, and Tracy Chapman. These influences peak through often, even in the darkest of moments of Xiu Xiu’s music. With a voice that makes Morrissey seem unemotional, Stewart, has full expression and control over the band’s songs. He leads the way through the dark and murky instrumentation, while speaking of often taboo topics such as abortion, rape, and suicide.
Xiu Xiu is now working on their ninth album, which they plan to release by the end of the year. Look for it on Polyvinyl Records, and check out 2012’s standout album Always there as well.