Xiu Xiu
A Promise


5.0
classic

Review

by BMDrummer USER (53 Reviews)
September 10th, 2017 | 61 replies


Release Date: 2003 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Don't worry mom.

Genres suck. I hate to be "that guy," in the sense that "oh, this band I really like is beyond description!" or something as cliche'd as that, but in the case of Xiu Xiu, there's really no easy label to pin on them. We live in an age of endless Joy Division and Television revivalism, and even though Xiu Xiu clearly take influence from post-punk (they even covered Joy Division's Ceremony!), it would be foolish to lump them into the "post-punk revival" of the early 2000s. For the sake of reviewing though, I will call them a post-punk band, which is loose at best. Calling them music at all can be loose at times. Enough of my rambling though; A Promise is what the world of post-punk (haha!) needed.

Xiu Xiu's sound is a(n) (un)godly amalgamation of cling-clang percussion, buzzsaw synth work, dance-y rhythms that sound like hell, melodies that are either greatly overstated or understated, and Jamie Stewart's vocals that will make you rethink what "emotional" singing might be. Opener "Sad Pony Guerrilla Girl" is deceptive in many ways though, drawing us in with a pleasant guitar melody, before being joined by some fluttering synth work and Jamie's vocals. The moment Jamie comes in will trigger one of two reactions; immediate disgust and contempt, or immediate fascination and awe. Even better, what will really trigger those two reactions is the break, where a high-pitched noise comes in and crescendos, while Jamie makes noises below and claps his hands, or something, before going right back into the understated, yet anthemic chorus. This right here is perhaps the album's biggest strength; the ability to go from ugly to beautiful within seconds, in a litany of different ways.

I'm going to be quite frank and say I hated this album the first time I heard it. I found the vocals grating, the synths annoying, the melodies disgusting, and the overall product to just be pretentious and lost in itself. As I listen more and more though, this piece of work continues to reveal things to me. It's an album that gives me the feeling of just being completely, nakedly, stupidly alive and human. Moments like the sudden explosion of synths in "Apistat Commander," the seconds-long drop of all the instruments in "Sad-Redux-O-Grapher" where Jamie suddenly yells his lyrics, the way "Blacks" makes me want to dance away my fears and sadness more than any song ever over that beautifully-confused synth melody that only lasts like 10 seconds, or most of all, when Jamie just gets up to your ear on "Ian Curtis Wishlist" and begs us to understand what he's saying. Each and every song has something that keeps me coming back, and picking a favorite would be next to impossible based on all these qualities. There's not a single skip-worthy track on here; not even the nearly six-minute long cover of "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman, where Jamie sounds like he's reading the song off of ultimate-guitar and stumbling through.

Is this album for everybody? Of course not. Is it even for a lot of people? Not even close. This is an album you really need to spend some time with before you'd even consider that Xiu Xiu is worth listening to. I spent at least two years of my life thinking Xiu Xiu were nothing but over-emotional trash, and I'm really glad I finally turned that around. It honestly warms my heart knowing that somebody had the guts to make an album this insane, and let the rest of the world hear it. I would never once say that Xiu Xiu are going to save music, but I do believe this is what Ian Curtis might've wanted. Enter this at your own risk, trust me. Someone once said that this was basically "Requiem for a Dream: The Album," and based on impact, this isn't false. I do love you, Jamie Stewart.



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user ratings (190)
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
BMDrummer
September 10th 2017


14646 Comments


this really needed a review, so i wrote this in like 15 minutes

hi sput

Toad
September 10th 2017


2026 Comments


Nifty record
Welcome back

JohnnyOnTheSpot
Emeritus
September 10th 2017


6744 Comments


this didn't have a review? coulda sworn it did at one point

but yeah. jamie was remarkable here in how he was able to bare his soul without really ~singing~ a single note. will read this in full later

IcelandRevel
September 10th 2017


943 Comments


Johnny, same here! I'm 95% sure it did. I'm glad this has a review, though, and a good one.

Asdfp277
September 10th 2017


21722 Comments


same here, a berenstein kinda vibe i'm getting lol

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
September 10th 2017


19134 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

ty bm

Chortles
September 10th 2017


21452 Comments


NICE

AsleepInTheBack
September 10th 2017


6057 Comments


Neat review. I'm intrigued.

TheWrenKing
September 10th 2017


1696 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

remarkable album/review

StallionMang
September 10th 2017


9000 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

so glad this got a review. album/band is extremely upsetting but i feel like more ppl need to hear it/them

brainmelter
September 10th 2017


6696 Comments


finally

Digging: Child Abuse - Imaginary Enemy

Zig
September 10th 2017


1878 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review. Great album.

Digging: Gustav Holst - The Planets, Op. 32

Taxt
September 11th 2017


1366 Comments


Love this album, nice write up.

foxblood
September 11th 2017


10174 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

surprised this is the first write up for this. haven't heard this in at least 10 years but i liked it then.

BMDrummer
September 22nd 2017


14646 Comments


i bumped into jamie stewart and rec'd him a local pizza joint

he called me a gentleman to the rest of the group he was with i felt so honored

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
September 22nd 2017


19134 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

bm joins xiu xiu W H E N

luci
September 22nd 2017


11983 Comments


This had a Greer review back in the day

StallionMang
September 22nd 2017


9000 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

how tf do these things just happen

BMDrummer
September 22nd 2017


14646 Comments


they were playing my town tonight

but still, it was away from the venue

BMDrummer
October 3rd 2017


14646 Comments


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bj2eamu3e_s



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