Xiu Xiu have generally always been a product of Jamie Stewart’s many and sundry personal anxieties. But their new album Forget comes off as particularly confrontational from the get, as if to fire an early warning shot for the aurally squeamish.
To wit, opening track “The Call” layers lush Kraftwerk-ian synths and the viciously chanted mantra “Clap, bitches!” over steamroller industrial beats that would probably make even Nitzer Ebb a little queasy. Unsettling x100.
Where to go from there? “Queen of the Losers” tortures an assortment of music-making machinery into the sort of screeching anxiety that once characterized the best Cabaret Voltaire steel mill symphonies. “Take it, take it away,” Stewart begs, and you genuinely wish you could comply and do something to cease his suffering.
Yet as much as you might want to take a record like this as an exercise in exaggerated aggression release, you’re more likely to wonder just what specifically inspired such unrelenting self-flagellation. “Do you hate me because I seem so stupid?” he desperately implores over the funereal drone of “Get Up.” And though you think it all might just take a turn for a spot of good humor with the wackily titled “Hay Choco Bananas,” it turns out to be a merciless dirge, with its maddeningly dissonant bells ringing their way into an atonal death mass.
There’s little point in questioning the honesty at work here; no one would make this record if they didn’t have to. And beyond the emotional whiplash, it’s a musically complex, considered, and particularly brave work. But if you’re in a good mood, this will only wreck it. And if you’re depressed…good god—please be careful.