Fifteen years in to the life of Xiu Xiu, a new chapter has been added with their release of the bone crushing, moody, and darkly beautiful LP, FORGET.
Kicking off their tour with an album release show, Xiu Xiu (on this night comprised of members Jamie Stewart and Angela Seo) played exactly half of the ten new FORGET tracks at Union Nightclub. For many LA musicgoers who inhabit the many east side tried and true establishments, this atypical setting received a sort of validation once Xiu Xiu’s disconcerting and defiant assault began.
Stewart’s desperate and tortured cries could be a hybrid of Anohni and Devon Welsh crossed with a Bowie haunt, particularly on 2002 song, “Don Diasco” (Welsh of recently shelved act, Majical Cloudz). The melodrama carried over to Stewart’s attitudinal shoulder shrugs, backed by Seo’s gesticulative and sparse analog and digital percussion.
By the third song, FORGET track “Wondering,” things really got cooking as the twosome rode a New Wave synth arc sky high. This injection continued during new album title track, “Forget,” begging questions like, how can something that in one moment feels quite discordant, also manage to find such a driving melody? Or, with all the warble and sonic paranoia, how is there time and space for all this beauty?
Xiu Xiu exhibit massive range both on record, and in person. In fact, I struggle to come up with another act that can use every color in the crayon box like they do. And to think, at the Union they achieved this with just two band members.
With the improbable cover choice of ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man,” Xiu Xiu dipped in to a space funk that yet again tapped an unexpected dichotomy, that of glam-cum-Kraftwerk. In another moment, a fellow concertgoer astutely pegged one industrial vibe as, “emo meets German hardcore.” And so it went.
New one “Get Up” employed wood blocks digitally looped by Stewart. In the midst of executing the lyrics on top of his gentle loops, Stewart quickly sobered up the room in one fell swoop with the blood-curdling shriek of, “RISE FROM THE DEAD!” The song described harmonicas and pianos falling on faces, typically violently-themed Xiu Xiu lyrics that were soon forgotten with an absolute cacophonous eruption of pop melody, because why not? It was a show-stopping moment.
Aggro album opener, “The Call,” and the uber-neurotic confessional “Faith, Torn Apart” notably did not receive live treatment. It would have been interesting to witness how the band would have handled some of the lyrics to “The Call”, or the series of earnest confessions that close out FORGET on “Faith, Torn Apart.”
Nevertheless, the performance left a jarring impression, one rooted in the many contrasts that, when cobbled together, create Xiu Xiu.
Xiu Xiu at Union Nightclub Setlist
I Luv Abortion
Hay Choco Bananas
Sharp Dressed Man (ZZ Top)
Stupid in the Dark
Sad Pony Guerrilla Girl
I Broke Up