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Xiu Xiu: Women as Lovers

Xiu Xiu: Women as Lovers

Label:Kill Rock Stars
Release Date:2008

By Michael Byrne | Posted 1/30/2008

Who'd have thought Xiu Xiu could go on this long? There was a time when this band was barely approachable, naturally awkward noise and catharsis. Five years ago-an eternity for a band this discrete-the music was so "weird" it justified being packaged with some of the heaviest emo to cross into the realm of indie acceptability ever. Then the music got less weird, the awkward little drones and moans and tantrums gave up to rock 'n' roll, gave up to actual songs, such as the baited, swooping, and loud "I Luv the Valley, OH!" or the room-filling, belted chorus of "Boy Soprano." By the time 2006's The Air Force rolled around, Deerhoof started to make much more sense as a Xiu Xiu touring partner than Yellow Swans.

The lyricism never changed, however; Jamie Stewart still has as empathetic voice as ever, still sings from phantom diaries of abused boys and girls, still sings about zits and getting raped. If it feels any less earnest on Women as Lovers, maybe it's because Stewart is famous now and, you know, famous people don't have problems.

At least Xiu Xiu finally appears to know what it wants. On the (now) foursome's sixth studio album, the all-around bigness is back. "You Are Pregnant You, You Are Dead" is a grand swirl of rock orchestration that features an actual vocal harmony between Stewart and bandmate/cousin Caralee McElroy, though Stewart practically has to whisper to hide his hyperemotive waver. And, good God, "No Friend, OH!" even comes with a big-albeit discordant-trumpet anthem as if it was nicked from a raggedy Broken Social Scene playbook. "F.T.W.," this album's "Boy Soprano," at least comes with a lattice of skronk to duet with its full string section. Joined by the ever-so-creepy voice of Michael Gira, Xiu Xiu again proves that it's one of the better cover bands out there, adding an excellent version of "Under Pressure" to its stable, besting its 2003 gut-wrenching, stripped-to-almost-naught take on "Fast Car."

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