Xiu Xiu, “Girl with Basket of Fruit”

Xiu Xiu
Girl with Basket of Fruit
POLYVINYL
6/10

At nearly this exact same time in 2017, Xiu Xiu unleashed their tenth full-length release, the ambiguously-titled Forget, which seemed to indicate that Jamie Stewart (all-around creative director and major domo) was going even further off the emotional rails—and taking his music with him.

Now we find him crawling from the wreckage of said derailed locomotive with a fair amount of damage ostensibly suffered. Indeed, new album Girl with Basket of Fruit opens with the title track coming on like the aural representation of cardiac arrest—though lyrically it is writhing between a painful birth episode and a girl on a bicycle floating in space (huh?). About three minutes in, it’s verging on grand mal seizure.

There’s not much comfort forthcoming, as this is followed by the lunatic mental-breakdown dirge “It Comes Out as a Joke.” Though it’s pretty clear there’s no kidding going on.

With such palpable sincerity at work, one is inclined, as a listener, to put a determined effort into fully grasping this level of madness—but whether revelation awaits or not will likely be up to the individual.  

Amidst the cacophony, it’s not all just careening nihilism. On the mournfully dissonant “Amargi ve Moo,” Stewart pleads, “Let there be peace / And let it begin with thee.” Though a later verse comes off kind of murdery, so…

You’d love, then, to think some ironic relief is arriving in the form of “Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy”—but the track brutally mines the militaristic industrial vein of late ’80s Nitzer Ebb and Ministry. One imagines even Al Jourgensen might be weirded out by lyrical musings that include, “My prized pig / I’m sorry I left you outta pasture to die.”

But amidst all the vitriol and confrontation, there are more achingly confessional, almost tender moments like “Normal Love,” and especially the haunted anguish of “The Wrong Thing”—which, with its eerie atmospherics and ringing alarm, is like a hymn disguised as a requiem. It’s the sort of piece that might perfectly soundtrack a violent crime of passion on the most desolate backstreets of Venice or Budapest.

Let’s face it: Xiu Xiu never promised anyone a rose garden. But the level of pandemonium and desperation here makes for deeply unsettling but fascinatingly involved listening. Maybe just keep the Pentobarbital within arm’s reach.

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