Last year Xiu Xiu put out an album of Nina Simone covers (inspired by a conversation frontman Jamie Stewart had with Michael Gira of Swans) shortly before announcing their new album Angel Guts: Red Classroom, named after a critically acclaimed Japanese “pink film” from the late ’70s (“pink films” or “roman pornos” were a type of film popular at the time, usually incorporating large amounts of violence and softcore porn). The album of minimalistic, croaked-out Simone covers didn’t seem like essential listening, but in hindsight it has given an important context to this new one. That’s because Angel Guts is the darkest and most upsetting album Xiu Xiu have made in at least a decade, and arguably in their entire career.
When Tom wrote about the album’s lead single, “Stupid In The Dark,” he described it as sounding “like what might happen if Cold Cave ever decided they were done writing catchy melodies,” but the thing is that’s probably the catchiest song on the new album. “Lawrence Liquors” is a bit more representative of the sound Stewart and crew take on here. It’s a very muddy, buzzing song that alternates between Stewart’s iconic, quivering whisper and pitch-shifted yelps that sound like something out of a disturbing cartoon. It’s not accessible or catchy in any conventional sense. Instead it pushes the contrast of its melodies and really uneasy imagery like the early Xiu Xiu of Knife Play and A Promise. This might just be one for the fans, but Xiu Xiu are always at their best when in that mode, and this song is a welcome addition in its creeping discomfort. Listen below.
Angel Guts: Red Classroom is out 2/4 via Polyvinyl.