Xiu Xiu just came through town, and RX staffer Ryan Harper was among the fans who caught the band’s show at Neurolux March 25. Here’s what Ryan has to say about Xiu Xiu’s latest, Dear God, I Hate Myself:
In an often overlooked interview, Jamie Stewart settles the longstanding indie-rock-nerd debate on the pronunciation of his band’s name (it’s Shoo-Shoo), but then goes on to recount a favorite moment in Xiu Xiu’s evolution. Relaxing between gigs in an out of the way cafe, Stewart and his bandmates overheard the groans of a fellow customer into his phone: “Aww, man, I can’t. I have to take my stupid sister and her stupid friends to see some stupid emo band called Schwee-Schway.”
Of course, Stewart says, he introduced his band as “Schwee-Schway” that night and as “Jzoo-Jzoo” or “Kcsoo-Kcsoo” on as many other nights since, happily wallowing in that ambiguity, in the secret, acrid humor of the inside joke that is or isn’t the band’s name. “Who cares?” he seems to be saying, like the smirking, overly self-aware nihilist in the corner.
This, then, is Xiu Xiu through the lens of its only constant member, Stewart: tortured tales of disillusionment and dismemberment and all the tongue-in-cheekiness that comes with the territory.
And this, also, is Dear God, I Hate Myself, a return to the eclectic, openly-electronic art-pop of his third album, Fabulous Muscles (2004). This is another album that revels in absurdity, misery, and mixed-up, awkwardly muttered love, all while barely keeping a straight face. It’s another carefully constructed vision of life filled with characters as harrowing and hilarious as the cross-dressing, gun-toting “Sad Pony Guerrilla Girl” from A Promise (2003), characters as imaginary and real and myriad as all the beloved perversions of the band’s name.
It isn’t that Stewart’s hushed confessional vocals aren’t serious. Delivered over a wash of glitchy, minimal darkwave, owing equal debts to Deerhoof and early post-punk pop, to New York No-Wave and Cal-Berkeley-back-alley gender politics, Stewart’s narratives of over-the-top self-hatred and under-the-table strokes of faith are entirely earnest, and, really, that’s the joke: that these desperate, pathetic characters might not be the same people singing to you from the stage, from the studio, but they’re completely real. They’re the people you meet right before last call, the people who buy insurance from you, the people who sell you refrigerators. They’re us.
Love it or leave it. And, like Stewart, I can’t help but love it — from both sides of the stage.