clap clap blog: we have moved

Tuesday, December 16, 2003
What the hell? Did some Freshman Comp class get assigned to write letters to PF letter writers as a final project?

Sent: Tuesday, December 16, 2003 3:44 PM
Subject: Xiu Xiu Rules - says 19 yr. old fan

Dear Mike,

In your open letter to Pitchfork, you mentioned that you believed Xiu Xiu's music could only be considered "brilliant" by adolescents who are living through the "tortued teen years" of high school. Unfortunately, I can't agree with you one bit.

I got into Xiu Xiu almost a year ago to the day when I purchased their first album, an album I think is the best example of quality Xiu Xiu. While the lyrics are the most talked-about aspect of the band, I think many reviewers miss out on how good the musicians actually are. Mixing industrial techno (a genre that's been repulsive since Trent Reznor's third album) with easy-to-swallow melodies, heavy doses of sonic experimentation, Joy Division-esque backbeat, and yes, even intriguing and thoughtful lyrics, Xiu Xiu are a band with few peers. Sure, Suicide did most of this stuff years ago, but c'mon, EVERYTHING's been done these days a million times over. Hell, Radiohead's first 3 albums (OK Computer moreso than even the first two) were retreads of the early 80's Australian indy rock scene.

I, for one, don't believe the lyrics are corny. I'd recommend seeing Xiu Xiu live to clear up that whole mess. Jamie Stewart is not only a hell-of-a-guitarist with a unique minimalist style, but he's got a very powerful voice with immense range. To see him pull off all the blips, bleeps, loops, and hisses using only his vocal cords is definitely something special. Also, if you happen to meet Mr.Stewart, you'll be surprised to know that he IS the real deal. He's extremely open about his past, one riddled with abuse and divorce. When he yelps about taboo sex and shouts about his tortured soul, at least he's delivering these messages first-hand, and not faking them like so many other goth rock stars.

I'd also like to say...Xiu Xiu is not for everybody and definitely doesn't seem like its up your alley. If a Joan of Arc album is as emotional as you like to get, I wouldn't recommend ANY Xiu Xiu record at all. This is stuff that is meant to be listened to only by those who believe in its sincerity. Jamie Stewart is not trying to reach out very much, he's well aware that the awkwardness expressed is going to leave some listeners confused. To the rest of us, though, that don't doubt for a second the emotion and honesty he brings about in his lyrics, Xiu Xiu have been immensely successful at being consistent and prolific. Their full-lengths, as well as their EPs and splits, have featured quality music that, in my opinion only, has steadily advanced from post-punk to post-electronic. Jamie Stewart is an excellent songwriter, one who uses many influences to craft music that has remained largely unheard by anyone, regardless of age.

This is not high school music, unless you go to a high school in SoHo or something. Crappy punk rock, nu-metal, brainless hip-hop, and shitty emo...all these things are popular in high school. But to try to argue that Xiu Xiu is meant for 16 and 17 yr. olds is absurd and completely unfounded.

Josh Goldberg

My reply:


Thanks for your letter.

I'm a little unsure where you're getting this from my is this letter, right? From, er, August?

Anyway, the words you've got in quotation marks don't appear anywhere in my letter, assuming it's that one, and neither does anything implying the paraphrase you've got there. Here's the closest thing:

"The problem with focusing on all this shock and transgression stuff with Xiu Xiu is that it's super unconvincing to me and, I hope, anyone over the age of 17. (Not to say anything bad about them, but I know from, er, personal experience that this kind of stuff has more coin when you're suffering through adolescence, and that's cool.)"

So there's that "I hope," which clearly means "I hope but my hopes are cruelly dashed" since PF seems convinced by them and all their critics are over 17, as far as I know. It just surprises me, still, that it works. I guess I forget the whole extended-adolescence angst thing a lot of indie rockers go through. The point being that you didn't have to write me to let me know that non-adolescents like Xiu Xiu: I clearly knew that already. However, I still think the lyrics are at the emotional complexity of Nickelback (if at a certainly higher artistic complexity) and nothing I've been shown to date serves to disabuse me of this notion. I wasn't saying that actual high schoolers listen to it: I'm just saying that with an acoustic guitar and a rock beat behind it, they probably could. Y'see, unlike the PF folks, I'm not confusing my conception of others' reactions with others' actual reactions.

As for the content of your letter, no, I would not be surprised to learn that Mr. Stewart is "the real deal," as unless he's an alien or a cyborg or a cleverely-disguised conglomoration of ants, he'd pretty much have to be the real deal, wouldn't he? He's just as real as David Lee Roth, believe it or not. And yes, I know he means those lyrics, man, and I'd even be willing to admit that they're probably real, although I'd also want to make clear that I could give less of a shit whether someone's lyrics are "keepin' it real" or not. I care about passion and talent, not authenticity, and while Mr. Stewart clearly has an excess of the former, he's eschewing a wee too much of the latter in search of that vaunted realness. If I wanted to hear confessionals about someone's sad youth, I'd go read some freshman poetry, or read any of the innumerable sob story memoirs that populate bookshelves and which we all pretty much agreed suck, I think. It sickens me and seems like nothing more than the aural equivalent of jerking off in public.

As for the music? Eh, it's noisy and fine, I guess, but I've heard better. That you can like or not like, and I won't really care. But lyrically, and I don't do this too often, I'll insist that people who praise Mr. Stewart's lyrics are wrong. Not just wrong in their beliefs, but wrong in their methods. You and the PF writers seem to think that everyone who dislikes Xiu Xiu either doesn't get them, is intimidated by them, or has bad taste. No, no, and no. I can listen to it same as I can listen to Merzbow, and I'm bored. Just flat-out bored. (Or amused.) In other words: I know what they're doing, and I don't give a shit.


ps "post-electronic"? Like, organic computing?

Joan of Arc?