Xiu Xiu are no strangers and are back with their latest album ‘Always’. Jamie Stewart who is the main constant over the last 10 years delivers their 9th studio album and doesn’t disappoint for anyone who is an existing fan.

As always Xiu Xiu make challenging music accompanied by pained and tortured lyrics and the master plan is set out from the beginning with the opening track ‘Hi’. The song identifies with anyone who feels disaffected with life. It’s a clarion call to the ‘broken bodied’ and all victims without exclusion – ‘If you’re wasting your life, say hi/If you are alone tonight, say hi/If you wish you should die, say hi’. As the track climaxes in nightmarish classical imagery ‘If you have poked out your eyes say hi’ and electro pulsating beats reminiscent of Depeche Mode .

The lyrics shouldn’t distract from how great this album sounds. The Industrial sounds clash against pained vocals and set up a landscape of electronic percussive noise with liberal helpings of 8 bit lo-fi synth pop and copious amounts of snarling feedback guitar riffs.

‘Honeysuckle’ strikes a change to the tone with the duet with Angela Seo, who adds a relief to the pain and suffering of Stewart. They seem to set a more ‘pop’ tone to proceedings, raising upbeat melodic tone to the song. Their duet is repeated on ‘Smear the Queen’ in a similar upbeat vein even if their lyrics have a dark resonance.

The final track ‘Black Drum Machine’ certainly leaves you knowing that the horrors in the world are real. The menacing strings open a dark tale of abuse with a sinister turn and the tale descends in to a desolated painful soul baring all and crumbling as the cacophony of white noise comes to an abrupt halt and fades.

I feel you need to be in the right space/time/frame of mind to listen to ‘Always’ it can really affect you in ways that you may not want it to. I think you should listen to it and make your own judgements as Xiu Xiu lay bare the realties of anger, fear, sadness, apathy and hatred. It took several attempts before I understood the album and not to feel insulted by it. Give it a go, visit the world that Jamie Stewart has created and see for yourself it certainly is an experience you won’t forget.

Released February 27 2012 through Bella Union

Posted by Chris Hughes

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