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"Dear God, I Hate Myself"

Xiu Xiu – Dear God, I Hate Myself
01 March 2010, 14:00 Written by Sophie McGrath
With a title like Dear God, I Hate Myself, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Californian art-rock duo Xiu’s Xiu’s seventh studio album was all doom and gloom. And, well, a lot of it is. But, mercifully, there’s a bit more going on than that.There’s some big changes ”“ Angela Seo replaces longtime member Caralee McElroy as the second member, contributing piano, synth and drum programming, while Greg Daunier of Deerhoof helps with production ”“ but really this is classic Xiu Xiu ”“ thwarted, uncomfortable, and a little bit manic.And, of course, experimental with this. A sizeable chunk of the album’s tracks are substantially, and pain-stakingly, comprised of Nintendo DS bleeps, in erratic blips or gathered, with surprisingly powerful effect, into melodies and chords. They become one of the band’s most potent instruments, mixing with all manner of other sounds (jagged found sound, chamberlin, optigan, hand claps, a whole children’s choir to name a few of the odder) in incongruous and intriguing combinations.Yet eleven tracks of meandering, disorientating exploration is a bit much. Sometimes the songs seem to get lost, their constant ingenuity suppressing any hint of prolonged, powerful resolution, so that the album never erupts ”“ if it even tries to ”“ into sound beyond sensibility, the kind of no-holds-barred noise-rush release of Fabulous Muscles-era anthems like Brian the Vampire or I love the valley OH. DGIHM is too restrained for this. Maybe that’s its point ”“ in life, the edges of passion are always tempered by banality ”“ but amongst all this self-consciousness and wilful aimlessness you wish the album would occasionally let itself lose itself.Stewart has said of the album title ‘it is about the tension between feeling hopeless but also feeling as if spiritual love is possible and there for you if you want it’, but the music, which rarely tiptoes into hopeful territory, gives scant hint of this, and the lyrics even less.The lyrics, weirdly enough, are as direct and blunt as the music is oblique, subtle and explorative. A lot have a surreal bent which makes you think they’re supposed to be similarly evocative (most obviously ‘Apple for a Brain’: "a bee for a best man/ a panda is yourself / and you are holding butter’s hand") ”“ but really, they add little.You can be frank ”“ to the point of depravity ”“ and still be banal, as anyone who’s ever read angsty teenage poetry knows. In fact, Stewart’s lyrics often read like a cut-up of that genre’s choicest samples, or maybe its fridge poetry. To take him seriously requires an earnestness that the songs themselves, reflective and disjointed as they are, often deny ”“ so instead they just become completely bathetic. Take this from ‘Gray Death’: ‘you were beautiful when I lost you/ like whip covered in pins and glue/ when will it end oh when will it end/ this sopping wet towel of stupidity’. Er, OK.[This is the odd thing about Dear God I Hate Myself ”“ the awkward limbo between straight-faced, excruciating confessional and self-conscious irony. You’re never quite sure when they’re being serious and when their banality is on purpose ”“ like in ‘Chocolate makes you happy’ where this simple comment and childish (but very catchy) melody contrasts with lyrics about bulimia and sexual desire. ]But despite its moroseness and emptily provocative lyrics, the album is genuinely inventive, and is definitely a grower. While the songs tend to blur together on first listen, after a while their distinctness, and ragged beauty, emerges. A few of the highlights include the palpitating percussion of ‘Gray Death’, the lush string introduction on ‘Hunhye’s Theme’, and the totally random but wonderfully spirited version of old folk ballad ‘Cumberland Gap’ ”“ even if the album is perhaps not quite the sum of its parts.
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