Review: Xiu Xiu – Girl with Basket of Fruit
National Music Reviews
Girl with Basket of Fruit
Xiu Xiu = Parenthetical Girls + Chino Amobi + Author & Punisher
Welcome to the cult of Xiu Xiu. Please present your offering at the altar of “The Ogs Magog Bog”: for the path is not straight, but it is the only way through.
Girl with Basket of Fruit—whether it is welcome or disappointing, is an intense shift from Xiu Xiu’s last album, Forget. Forget was the most accessible they’ve ever been as a group—forefronting catchy, pop production and melody, Xiu Xiu made an album that felt like an entryway into their deep, diverse catalog. Girl with Basket of Fruit, in a lot of ways, feels like the antithesis of Forget. The times have only gotten more desperate over the past year or so, and Xiu Xiu have shifted to reflect that desperation
Jamie Stewart’s group has returned with a new lineup, including Angela Seo, Thor Harris and Jordan Geiger, with production help from Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier to help evolve their experimental-noise sound. This album is much more along the lines of Xiu Xiu’s more abrasive work, such as Angel Guts: Red Classroom.
Girl with Basket of Fruit‘s lyrics are surreal and dense, and in many cases seeming to address feelings of anxiety and anger toward the shitstorm of the past few years. “Mary Turner Mary Turner” offers the clearest look into these lyrical themes, as Stewart retells the lynching death of the titular subject and finishes the song with the memorable “Fuck your guns. Fuck your war. Fuck your truck. Fuck your flag.” Stewart also takes on more ritual, religious and mythological themes throughout the album as well.
While Stewart’s lyrics can oftentimes be difficult to get to the bottom of—I’m looking at you, “every frog hops right up into her butthole”—and the vocals on Girl with Basket of Fruit are not always at the forefront and are often far from pristine, adding yet another layer of abstraction and challenge to the album. This is neither an error of mixing nor meer pretense. The vocals add to the feeling of anxiety over powerlessness. They often feel like they are being beaten down, choking on assaulting, claustrophobic percussion and consuming layers of synths, drones and strings—the percussion is especially standout. These instrumentals feel like a stand-in for an obscure and dangerous higher power Xiu Xiu are thematically interested in throughout the record. The final result is a Xiu Xiu album that feels like a ritualistic experience—a giving over of oneself to a frightening deity, or deities, as a final resort to combat what feels like the end times.
The central, and longest, track on Girl with Basket of Fruit, “Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy,” is a terror-filled club banger that runs sans vocals. The track is a great, plummeting intermission down into the deep-industrial house rabbit hole and is a testament to the ability of Xiu Xiu to change pace and intensity throughout the album. Interestingly, despite all the discussion of cacophony and abrasiveness, a major piece holding Girl with Basket of Fruit together as a cohesive and singular Xiu Xiu album are the strings, cut and pasted (including samples from previously released Xiu Xiu songs), and played throughout the album, giving the whole dark, chaotic work a beautiful and melancholic core.
Even 14 albums in, Xiu Xiu impressively feel forward thinking and exciting. Girl with Basket of Fruit is a dark, abstract, expressionist masterwork that opens wider and descends deeper with each listen. It is an early pace setter for the best music to be released this year. –Evan Welsh