To paraphrase a man whose name I can’t recall;
‘When I became a man I put away childish things.’
Such is th-
C.S. Lewis! That’s it!
Such is the way of life that as we grow and mature, so too do our tastes and desires. We no longer derive satisfaction from the sinply jingling of car keys before our faces, and neither do we seek enjoyment from the simple and benign. Bright colours and pretty lights can only sustain interest for so long, and pretty soon we’re looking for something with more of everything we find appealing.
More colour, more sound, more depth than our earlier self-set levels of what we deemed to be an acceptable amount of toleration for something that offered no other alternative.
Or, to paraphrase a differently great man;
‘Does a blind guy still do this *waves hands in front of himself as if flailing in the dark* when he learns how to see?’
And since 2002Xiu Xiu have been anything but childish or blind to seeking out its own path on the road of musical exploration, four full albums fitting under the bands belt. But to expect anything that has come before on their future releases is to not know the band Xiu Xiu and their unwillingness to refrain bucking trends, with their latest unveiling of the vagaries of reality being the ground-shattering sound of Angel Guts: Red Classroom.
Recorded using synths of the analogue kind and drum boxes alone the vocals become more a figure hiding in the shadows whispering your fears in the dark; they become the unexpected loss of footing and subsequent endless plunge into the void of humanities soul. With the songs being written based on the surroundings and experiences the LA band witnessed and were witness to- and no willingness on Xiu Xiu’s part to water it down for the sake of the children – there is an uncomfortable edge to the proceedings and throughout on the album.
Much like Manson’s Antichrist Superstar album there will be a period of adjustment needed when first experiencing the album. There’s a new level of appreciation needed to be found within your glands before you understand and thus become involved and invested in the albums offerings. Just like the moment hills and grass and a cow in a field go from being things to keep your eyes occupied as you look out the window to being scenery, you will find yourself transitioning from not quite knowing where to begin understanding what you’re hearing to not knowing why other musicians stick to their simple 4-4 rhythms and such.
Songs like Adult Friends and Lawrence Liquors smack you in the balance bag and off at a slant, the uncomfortable feel of the pulse within the tracks a bit much at first when coming through high end Beats.
Stupid In The Dark has you checking over your shoulder and behind the cushions, paranoia and a sense of fear trickling down your leg first embeds itself into the intro of the song before ripping it open and pulling you through the hole, holding you down in the position of the victim and letting you experience the emotion of helpless vulnerability without even a thin slither of hope you will be rescued. It controls the power it has over you, enjoys it when you squirm and laughs when you scream.
And then you’re released to hear New Life Immigration, with its recounting of memories forged when promises were made; dreams borne from the remains of what little hope can be found and lived with an arrogant bliss. You are the figure looking over the shoulder of the song, empathising and emoting along with the vocals lament, feeling just as unable to stop the clouds rolling in as the protagonist himself with a sense of loss that, though it may not have been yours, feels like it was.
The Silver Platter has echoes of Bowie’s freedom to define the music as it flows through the air and into your ears, refusing to become staid or obvious or stuck in a loop, with Archie’s Fades a genuine contender for the reason your kids will no longer sleep with the lights off after you tried introducing them to the miasma of musical appreciation to be found within Xiu Xiu’s latest release.
With the kind of strong themes dealing with such grown-up matters as life, lovers, and having a three-way whilst someone else sits and watches there is plenty of meat-on-the-bone here, with a sound that manages to reflect the complicated, convoluted, and oft-times wrong-footed nature of life itself.
Though it may focus on only one small facet of the jumbled emotions and happenings that tear us to pieces, re-building us tougher than before, time and again and catalogued as experience Angel Guts: Red Classroom does so with its hands clamping your headphones firmly to your head whilst making soothing noises of safety and wiping your brow.
Get the album on iTunes here!