You know that feeling of frustration you get when somebody asks you to go into explicit, itemized detail about what it is that you dislike about a band’s music and, having no real ability to identify, let alone articulate what it is that turns you off, you find yourself at a loss for words and wanting to be left with your convictions? My knowledge of the band Xiu Xiu before listening to their newest album, began and ended with a concert poster of theirs, from some esoteric venue some years back that my senior year roommate carried with him from apartment to apartment, admittedly more so as decorum than homage. I suppose it was from there that my curiosity in the band with the inimitable name was spawned. In retrospect, I suppose I should have used that year in which, despite consistent exposure to the Xiu Xiu poster, I never made even the slightest attempt to listen to the band, as a harbinger for an instinctually recognized incompatibility.
I don’t intend to write the band off entirely. In fact, I made the point in the prologue that I have only made the effort to listen to this, their latest album. I think generally speaking I can understand the appeal of the band. There exists a quirky sense of humor that shows through in titles like “Chocolate Makes You Happy.” The band also seems to value efficiency; the album’s 14 songs total just over 37 minutes in length. Miraculously the band keeps “This Too Shall Pass Away,” the song that most fully realizes the album’s aim of melding bizarre instrumentation and beat laden rhythms with a wholly accessible melody, to only three and a half minutes long, proving that brevity always trumps overstatement. Of course the band also draws admiration for their idiosyncratic approach. And perhaps it is in my unwillingness to deviate too far from certain traditions of rock music that keep me at hand’s length from full appreciation of Xiu Xiu’s music. While I can accept the melodramatic singing and the topically morose lyrics there is some bulwark disallowing my entry.
In a sense, Dear God, I Hate Myself sounds like what The Cure (a band that I have a very strong love/hate relationship with) should be and would be creating in the new millennium if not for front man Robert Smith’s apparent apathy toward invention. Aside from the obvious parallels being drawn between the two band’s shared penchant for writing oppressively disheartening and yet overwhelmingly melodious dirges, there is an exploration in industrial production and a confusing balance between out of left field levity and the down right macabre. Oftentimes rather than serving to augment the song, the band’s interest in loops and keyboard manipulations clutter and obscure the track’s direction. But, again I understand that that seems to be part of their shtick and it could just be my not so humble resistance to these progressions that could ultimately spell a long and difficult relationship with innovators of modern music.
The Gothic Archies – The New Despair
Wire – 154
The Cure – Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me