US - California - Full Moon 141 - 03/21/08
Women As Lovers
Kill Rock Stars/Absolutely Kosher
Women As Lovers is the 6th full album by experimental minimalist indie rock outfit Xiu Xiu. Jamie Stewart & co. (now counting Ches Smith, Caralee McElroy and Devin Hoff - the line-up has been changing) have come up with their most approachable, or immediate record so far. Maybe so, but we're still not speaking
easy listening here...
Xiu Xiu and Women As Lovers are somewhat/sometimes (check "Guantanamo canto", "Child at arms" or "White Nerd") sounding like a young Pere Ubu (around 1980), with a handful of gothic spices thrown in (touched by the hand of goth...). This is American alternative indie of the most spectacular kind, related
to fellow Californians Deerhoof (a collaborating band) and maybe also East coasters Animal Collective. Deerhoof's (and The Curtains') Greg Saunier has produced the album, as he did with The Air Force (2006). Deerhoof guitarist John Dieterich also contributes to one track: Xiu Xiu's cover of the slick and greasy "Under Pressure (penned and formerly performed by David Bowie and Queen) - in this version with chief-Swan Michael Gira on vocals. It's kind of cool, but not the finest moment on this album. Women As Lovers presents a mixed blend of songs, both crazy, 'introvert' material as well as catchy, 'embracing' stuff. While "Black keyboard" is a classy, almost conventional ballad, "Master of the bump (Kurt Stumbaugh, I can feel the soil falling over my head)" is a track on the far more introvert side of Jamie Stewart's mind. Because Xiu Xiu seems to be Stewart's brainchild, as he's the master song-writer and lyricist. The lyrics
being quite some different stories. Here we're talking anger management, or some serious catharsis wipe-over, but it's of course fitting this dramatic avant-art-rock perfectly. The most massive tracks on Women As Lovers are "In lust you can hear the axe fall", "You are pregnant you, you are dead" (check those titles...), "No friend oh!" and "White nerd".
As mentioned the lyrics of Xiu Xiu is serious stuff and maybe hard to get into. It could've taken a David Lynch to direct their videos (or, maybe Joan Chen...?). Fact is, Jamie Stewart and his Xiu Xiu are doing a balancing act with their minimalist art rock drama, balancing the thin line between the arty and what could
easily have been branded as arty-farty. They still do fascinate me enough, I'm still impressed by the heartfelt drama. Recommended, but maybe not for the faint-hearted.
Copyright © 2008 Håvard Oppøyen