Why would someone choose to listen to Xiu Xiu?
With its blend of dissonant guitar clashes, raging synth chords, and frontman Jamie Stewart’s morbid imagination, Xiu Xiu is daring in a literal sense: it dares listeners to keep their headphones on and endure—rather than necessarily enjoy—what Xiu Xiu has to offer.
But it’s that challenge—the masochistic exercise of listening to a Xiu Xiu record, paired with moments of undeniable beauty—that makes their music all the more alluring.
As a songwriter, Stewart tends to be drawn to more disturbing subject matter. Over the course of 13 albums, Stewart has sung extensively about incest, suicide and other nightmares, like the true story of his friend being sexually assaulted by a police officer while in custody.
While previous Xiu Xiu records veered toward the chaotic—a sudden, clattering noise here, a lyric like “cremate me after you cum on my lips” there— the group’s latest release Forget holds together as a catchier affair.
“Wondering” features Stewart’s signature, trembling vocals imploring listeners to “swallow defeat” as a pulsing, club-ready beat chugs toward something of a rarity in Xiu Xiu’s catalog: a bonafide pop chorus.
But groovier tunes don’t necessarily mean Stewart is beginning to lighten up. At its core, FORGET is ultimately an exploration of frailty and loneliness, ending on a poem read by the drag artist Vaginal Davis. The poem closes with lines that are peak-Stewart: “It doesn't matter what you think/ Do anything you like/ Because I was born dead/ And I was born to die.”
Over the phone from his home in Los Angeles, Stewart seems reluctant to explore the roots of his fascination with darker topics, less because he's scared and more because he's worried it could ruin his creative process.
“A lot of ‘whys’ in music I think fuck music up,” he says
Xiu Xiu will play Villain in Brooklyn on Sepember 23 with Noveller and Re-TROS.