Prolific angst merchant delivers sonic adventure
One of the most reliable sources of autobiographical despair, Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart would seem to have reached the point of self caricature with a title as over-the-top as Dear God, I Hate Myself.
Fortunately, his scars run bone-deep.
Earning its title, “Gray Death” is a harrowing synth-noise gem in which Stewart works himself into a fit of self-laceration, pleading for death while recounting the loss of a lover. Meanwhile, the “incredibly dumb, incredibly ugly” protagonist of “Chocolate Makes You Happy” has no recourse but to escape into comfort food he’ll later vomit back up.
And it only gets worse from there. But despite such tortured details, the seventh Xiu Xiu album may be the most playfully arranged and colorfully textured in the band’s catalog. As co-producer and collaborator, Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier gives the album bite and unpredictability, with nearly every track tripping down side roads of manically ping-ponging synths, sour countermelodies and churning shards of sonic debris. The only constant is Stewart, fearlessly riding his train as it slips the rails and eventually crashes at the steps of Morrissey’s mope-rock temple.