Album Review: Xiu Xiu – Dear God, I Hate Myself

March 2, 2010

Concept: The seventh album from art pop-rockers continues their trend out of freakish oddity, granted there is a long, long way to go.

Sound: Although Xiu Xiu’s sound is very distinct to say the least, I’d say each previous album has had a different instrumental theme. Dear God feels like a polished composite epic. Jamie Stewart’s voice has become more bearable to the first-time listener. The unique samples and effects are more in step with mainstream pop and less inclined to cacophony. The lyrics and melodies recycle once in a while. Thankfully, Stewart is still a terrible singer with an impeccable dramatic sense. His voice wobbles under his rage and bewilderment, and the snippets of strings, static, and alien voices shot in after his own are hair-raising. The biggest difference from old Xiu Xiu is the elaboration of the song structures. Unlike the sound, the structure is diverging from pop, ballads fraught with interludes that make the tunes seem much longer than the three minutes they all conform to. Since The Air Force, Xiu Xiu has become more attracted to their own experiments with acoustic instrumentation, and this has definitely paid off. The grinding cellos that visit from time to time belie a grandeur and thoughtfulness that simply does not come across with a hacked Speak n’ Spell linked to a megaphone. One thing I will say for this album’s sound as an improvement rather than a decline or mere change…anyone could listen to it, and nobody would outright smash their computer and stab themselves in the ears for doing so, and although Stewart’s bizarre sonic menagerie is tamed, it’s still just as vibrant.

Lyrics: Although Xiu Xiu’s lyrics were never that good, they seem to have been infected with the melodrama of the album cover. Xiu Xiu was always ‘extra outrageous’ in their content of molestation, abortion, suicide, HIV, child rape, and child prostitution, as well as their baffling one-liners, but there was often insight, originality, and punch to Stewart’s cutting insults and bleak laments. There is much less of that on Dear God, and more stock darkness: ‘look at what I’ve done/ you can protect nothing/… /there is nothing worse than to be born and live’, and although the emotion in his voice is convincing, his words aren’t. Outside of this, it still takes effort to accept other more absurd lines despite the strange sense they try to make within themselves: ‘when will it end/when will it end/the sopping wet towel of stupidity/… /a cartoon with no friends/yeah yeah yeah’.

Quick And Dirty: I’m willing to divide this between those who are and aren’t familiar with Xiu Xiu. There are maybe five tracks worth investigating for a fan, including the surprising (not necessarily great) cover of the Appalachian folk song ‘Cumberland Gap’. If you’re not a pretentious dweeb, this album is much more likely to appeal to you than the band’s first six albums. The worst thing about it is the title. (♦♦♦½)

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