Xiu Xiu + Frog Eyes
Intimate nights at the Bowery are like unembarrassing stand-up routines by Carrot Top: next to impossible, at least without some key long-distance phone calls. If we forget the nutso in the back who screamed, “Fascists! All of you!” and lead singer Jamie Stewart’s vocal similarities to yah mo Michael McDonald (sorry, indie dudes), Frisco-based shock artists Xiu Xiu came close to one. Intimacy is crucial to Xiu Xiu; on record and in concert all the more, they need it because their music exists solely to turn it inside-out. Without all ears and pinky-swearing trust, lyrics like “Cremate me after you cum on my lips” and “I will shoot this arrow right up your anus” can miss, we’ll say, their mark.
Fitting then for Stewart to begin the set with new song “Ale”; over Caralee McElroy’s reedy drones, which she teases out of her harmonium with suggestive sleight, Stewart whispers, barely, “Shut up, shut up…” But the room had been quiet for ten minutes before Xiu Xiu took stage, after some joker mock-shushed the crowd and a league of copycats followed suit. It was as if Stewart knew their secret; everyone laughed uncomfortably.
The rest was less pin-drop spare. Xiu Xiu cymbal-banged along to hellish synth-pop loops (“Muppet Face”), ululated in French to smashed (but not Smashmouth‘d) 90s alt-rock strums (“I Luv the Valley Oh!”), and all but mutilated themselves for the operatic “Apistat Commander,” a crooked pop song equal parts Robert Smith, high school theatre, and full-on blasts of noise, if we must distinguish the three (burnt again, indies!). Get to know Stewart up close–his sissy-faced tantrums, the bedroom dancing, the heavy auto-harp petting– and have confirmed everything his discography only hints at: Dude’s a fuckjob, but quite the entertainer.
Beforehand: Victoria, Canada’s Frog Eyes, the Bowie-fied freak-rock outfit every new “indie rock with eccentric singing” act is secretly ripping off, felt pressure to assert their testicularly-titled primacy, and ended up overcompensating. No one is entirely at fault here, but the band’s new guitarist does look like David Cross.
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