Review Summary: It's late in the game to ask, but I'm still asking you.
The term 'experimental' barely encapsulates all that Xiu Xiu is. The one consistent member throughout 15 years of activity, Jamie Stewart, likes to pen statements about sex, self-hatred, and an inability to process your own thoughts and feelings. These words are then crammed into a blender on its highest setting, while other analog synthesizers (and on one occasion, a Nintendo DS) follow the same, cruel process. It's harsh truths over harsh noise. Other songs may end up being one simple element that's lightly tweaked overtime, and the song itself becomes eerily quiet. It's often the albums that fall somewhere in the middle of this intensity spectrum that become Xiu Xiu's most popular. Their previous album turned out to be the most widely noticed project from this band in over a decade. Forget
is the first album to come after the Twin Peaks soundtrack cover, so it's probably the first new album for many new Xiu Xiu fans.
Unfortunately, their knack for constantly
shifting styles and methods does not bode well for these new fans of Xiu Xiu. It's a bad idea to expect their next album to follow the same course as their last. However, Forget
is a great album for a newcomer. It contains some of the most accessible tracks that the band have done in a long time. The highlight and lead single 'Wondering' is a perfect example, with a straightforward, catchy hook in it. This song, in fact, does a fine job showing off most of the things Xiu Xiu excels at. There's a repeating synth stab in there that doesn't entirely sound like a synthesized noise. It's reminiscent of a guitar, being plucked in a very rhythmic fashion. It also layers in sounds that, although they are seemingly randomized and thrown in haphazardly, only add to the pleasant ruffled texture of the whole song. This is something Xiu Xiu does a lot; have a handful or two of unique and slightly unsettling sounds that scatter in every direction throughout the duration of a track.
Thankfully, the three singles from Forget
weren't the only tracks to have the most admirable qualities. The final track 'Faith, Torn Apart' is an oddly beautiful finale to the entire album. It wears the Michael Gira influence proudly on its sleeve, with pounding drums, simple but dramatic lyrics, and repetition in every detail. While the song is distinctly Swans-esque, it simultaneously displays the inner psyche of Jamie Stewart. The last half of the 8-minute song consists of a poem written by Stewart, and every line is the first thought that comes into his head after viewing online pictures of underage prostitutes. He writes from their perspective, and what they likely think about themselves. Some descriptions are trying to be humorous, while others are devastating. "My kiss comes from a scream...my bikini looks dumb...my family will never see me again."
It's a very provocative part of the album, which can't quite be said about most of the songs here.
is an album with both new ideas and old methods. The scheme of writing from the perspectives of other people isn't particularly new to Xiu Xiu, and neither is the idea of filtering or distorting Stewart's voice in ways that partially obscure the lyrics. There isn't a lot of new terrain being covered, since many guest contributors from previous albums come back here, too. What's new is the structure of songs being so poppy and
electronic. Both of those words could definitely be applied to Xiu Xiu albums that came out over a decade ago, but the distinct combination of the two styles is a fresh concept for them. Occasionally, songs will lean too far to one side or the other, and become a little more forgettable. But for the majority of the time Forget
takes up for the listener, it was time well-spent.