Xiu Xiu – Angel Guts: Red Classrooms

Posted: 01/02/2014 in Album Review
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Xiu Xiu – or more accurately Jamie Stewart – has decided enough is enough, it’s time to abandon ship and embrace industrial meltdown. And we aren’t talking goths. The industrial that’s broken gear and smashed metal. It does seem to be the way the world is turning. Makes sense. The world is shit; full of selfies and unacknowledged right-wing greed. What can you do, get fucking angry, what’s the point? To feel alive I suppose.

Angel Guts is particularly moribund and claustrophobic. Which is what you want isn’t it? The talent of Xiu x2 is to be able to coherently turn from Erasure to Whitehouse within a single song. Which is what made Always one of the best albums of this decade. Embrace the weirdness, counter it with delicious ‘pop’. Fuck with people, if you don’t get it you’re not welcome anyway.

There was a strict rule in the creation of Angel Guts – analogue electronics and live drums only. The problem, is that it shackles the anything-goes abandon that defines the band. There is considerable ideas but it sounds blinkered, sepia permeates throughout. The record has a singular sound but lacks palette.

First single ‘Stupid in the Dark’ is classic Xiu x2. All pulsating and desperate with strained release. It’s all you are going to get in the way of a big chorus either. Stewart is probably the only person that can make shouting “black dick” sound menacing. That carefully titled song veers into Blaxploitation vamping. Stewart is a perpetually guilt ridden soul. The shades of white-guilt propel along equally with the black fetishisation. Even by the normally high standards, ‘El Naco’ is terrifically frightening. It’s where Swans should have gone with The Seer. It makes no concession for the listener. It’s wilfully malcontent, the effect is nothing short of intoxicating.

The only real relief is the compassionate ‘Bitter Melon’. The challenge there is the close-to-impossible desire to ignore its novelty bossanova beat.

Xiu x2 are the Bob Dylan of avant-indie. You might get a duffer but there’s a prize waiting in the next one. That’s manageable. They are so prolific and the standards are so high, all is forgiven.

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