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Xiu Xiu: Women As Lovers

January 30, 2008, 12:00 am
There are a few very rare albums that feel like an old favorite the first time they come blasting through a set of headphones. Everything is as it should be, there are no surprises and yet the excitement exists in abundance.
The latest release from Xiu Xiu, Women As Lovers, could be the companion album to 2006�s The Air Force�not b-sides mind you, but more Lovers is to Air Force as Amnesiac is to Kid A. The same desperation flows from the throat of singer Jamie Stewart and he�s backed by an over-caffeinated array of instrumentation.

And much like Air Force, Lovers contains a political slant that isn�t throw you hands in the air in defeat, but a quiet, stewing anger that spills forth with intellectualism. �Guantanamo Canto� is a dark, gorgeous song that forces chills up the listener�s spine through a background of footsteps, air raid sirens, drum rolls and lyrics such as, �your suicide is politics/and misery/my country needs this freedom/to contradict your humanness.� The devastating power of �Canto� is its overwhelmingly horrific tone and, aside from the song title, its universal message of protest against any and all wars.

Oddly, the song is followed by the skippingly lighthearted. �Under Pressure,� which features vocals by Michael Gira of Swans and Angels of Light (whose recent album We Are Him may be the Angels� best to date), doesn�t make light of the previous track�s mood, but pulls the listener out of the dark world that�s been created by friendly force. On its own the cover is fun; in context, it�s god-awful and the only part of the album that causes an instant recoiling on first listen. Once the chance to intellectualize has set in placing these two songs side-by-side is the only thing that makes sense. Lock a listener in a cage and free him as gently as possible.

In addition to Gira�s stint on �Pressure,� Stewart has let go of the microphone more than on previous albums. Caralee McElroy�s often a touch off key voice mixes into the instrumentation of the music and is a delightfully playful touch. McElroy has sung a bit in the past, but on Lovers her vocals are more pronounced and much more part of the overall whole.

Because Lovers is so similar in feeling and texture to Xiu Xiu�s previous efforts, it�s an album that will thrill its ever growing fan base but won�t convert the already skeptical who find the avant-garde experimentation a little too weird already.


Women As Lovers
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