Album Review: Always Xiu Xiu

24 March 2012 | 4:39 pm | Chris Familton

Xiu Xiu is definitely an acquired taste and if you’ve not been drawn into its dark and twisted fantasy yet


Never one to shy away from displaying his emotions, Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart returns with his eighth LP, Always, the title aptly summing up his continuing obsessions with damaged emotions, the human body and oppression, all wrapped up in what's become a trademark sound of dark electronica full of swoon and suffocating catharsis. The reference points of '80s post punk and goth still loom large, particularly in opener, Hi, which at times sounds like a perfect snapshot of the exact moment Joy Division morphed into New Order. As intense and claustrophobic as Always is, there's also a perverse sense of optimism that comes through, probably more attributable to the music than Stewart's lyrics. Honeysuckle is musically only a few degrees of separation away from something Erasure could write, while the austere gothic balladry of Oldness is sonic sister to the work of Antony Hegarty and Perfume Genius. The album's lyrical content is as confrontational and melodramatic as ever, with I Luv Abortion a fraught and intense barrage of words over digital industrial clatter. It's far from a comfortable listen, yet no one would expect Stewart to take a passive approach. You sense he revels in provoking via the schizophrenic spurts of white noise and rave synths and lines like “There's no need to fuck yourself in the arse/ But so often we bring it on”. Xiu Xiu is definitely an acquired taste and if you've not been drawn into its dark and twisted fantasy yet, it's unlikely Always will change your mind. Fans should embrace it as another brutally honest musical statement.