For the most part, one can escape the noise of a day. Xiu Xiu though seem to have a different approach – encapsulate that noise, distort it, include lyrics, and then force the listener to endure it.
It is no exaggeration to say that at times Angel Guts: Red Classroom does sound like the generic industrial noises of any working day. In fact I swear the cacophonous eruption of sounds across many of these tracks could be covered by the clunking train noises I hear when commuting.
In any case, Xiu Xiu fans or newcomers will not mistake this album. It is intense, dark, extreme – what did you expect after being named after an ancient, super-violent Japanese porno? The album is not necessarily a piece of musical composition but of an art-rock soundscape. For a Xiu Xiu fan this is apparently not big news, but for a virgin, the experience is borderline torturous. Scratch that, it is just plain torturous.
What’s here is little more than a collection of noises, shouts, screams, profanities and genuine terror. Whether it is in the lead singer – the otherwise seemingly lovely Jamie Stewart – shouting “big dick” over and over in the song “Big Dick”, or the garbled feedback filled screeches from keyboards across tracks such as ‘A Knife in the Sun’ or ‘Lawrence Liquors’, the album sounds as if it is constantly pushing the limits of what is listenable. It taunts the listener to give up but rewards them for continuing – albeit a reward with increased explosions of noise, profanities, and incessant offensive gibberish about rape, tits exploding like volcanoes, or robberies. Pretty standard musical themes, of course.
Fact is that I caved in. By the end of track three, ‘Stupid in the Dark’, I could take nothing more than a long break of silence and a cup of tea. I only returned to listening to the album, one track at a time, after chatting with my girlfriend, the only sane voice amidst a soundtrack which could cultivate a serial killer.
The experience stayed with me even as I slept that night. I had a vivid dream of two women in a bed, gradually undressing each other as sunlight filled the room, becoming more passionate and forceful with each other with every breath, until the woman who had been underneath (I think she had blonde hair) threw the other woman onto the bed, straddled her, and begun punching the submissive woman in the face repeatedly. She then ravaged her neck, drawing blood with her vampire teeth. Blood splattered all over the room as a mild refrain from an indistinguishable Xiu Xiu track rumbled in the background, building with each nightmarish vision. The woman started killing each other so I intervened. When I did, I was attacked by them both. And I woke up.
It disturbed me the following day. I saw that Angel Guts: Red Classroom was still on my smartphone. Like an exorcism on my phone, I deleted the album.
Fans of Xiu Xiu probably expected a rave review, filled with intelligent and worthwhile observations about the music, the rhythm, the messages of the songs and the value of it all. Haters of the duo probably expected a rant. Yet due to the lack of continual persistence with this album, and the profound effect it had on my psyche, I cannot satisfy either.
For fans, I could not recommend this album more. But for others? Perhaps I just did not understand what Xiu Xiu are trying to achieve, or perhaps objectivity was impossible on such a divisive album. But I can safely declare that this album, this piece of pretentious noisy trash, is one of the worst albums I have ever heard. Now I need some sleep therapy. Goodnight.
1 out of 5 stars
Words: Ashley Scrace