XIU XIU – Dear God, I Hate Myself (2010)

For years, Xiu Xiu have been the unrivaled, grand-motherfucking-champions of perverse indie rock. Sure, Animal Collective’s neo-psychedelic fits are kind of out there, and The Dirty Projectors have been known to toss genres genres into a blender and tear through the results, but Xiu Xiu are in a class all their own. If the aforementioned bands were film directors, Xiu Xiu would be Harmony Korine (Animal Collective would probably be Terry Gilliam, and The Dirty Projectors would most likely be Quentin Tarantino – think about it; it makes more sense than you realize). Xiu Xiu have had a rotating door of members during their tenure, with Jamie Stewart being the only consistent member, which makes sense – the band’s music, as bizarre as it can be, is definitely the result of a singular vision. The unsubtly titled Dear God, I Hate Myself is the band’s seventh album, and it’s one that showcases some of the band’s most normal material, as well as some of their most abstract.

Musically, the most notable aspect of Dear God, I Hate Myself is its liberal use of electronic programming. Xiu Xiu haven’t featured this much digital manipulation since the days of Fabulous Muscles. The band use their electronics in a variety of ways, too, be it as the blueprint of for a surprisingly robust dance floor rumination (Secret Motel), as bleak, stiff curtains of sound, occasionally tossed about in a black breeze (House Sparrow), or as the beginning of a twitchy dirge that drops off the radar right before it bursts (Impossible Dream). So yeah, it’s a diversely assembled album, as far as the electronics go. I found myself thinking of Kevin Barnes’ later material more than once here (Gray Death, This Too Shall Pass Away, and the title track). Again, this makes sense: both men share a love for classic synth sounds and both have a penchant for detailed, theatrical narratives. But Dear God, I Hate Myself is more complex (and certainly more strange) than Barnes’ work, and that’s saying a lot.

I know I’ve talked a lot about Xiu Xiu being weird and strange and whatnot, but I don’t want to have that overshadow the band’s music, which is challenging, cerebral and, yes, serious – it’s an art form all its own. True, Stewart’s music lacks a broad appeal, but then again, no music is made with everyone in mind. It’s kind of ironic that Dear God, I Hate Myself is an album that’s likely to attract a few strangers based on the title alone, but the people who listen to it (perhaps expecting some angsty nu-metal or low-key Conor Oberst loathing) will be shocked (and perhaps put off) at how confrontational and raw of an experience the album is. Good art is like that. It forces itself upon and disturbs your coordination; it makes you deal with it on its terms, not yours, and if you can’t…well, either it leaves you or you leave it, one of the two. I’m glad that there are people like Stewart (and his labelmate, John Congleton) pushing the envelope out there. It makes me rest (un)easy at night.

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