Back in the early 2000's, writing about music, you could feel things were changing. By the time I had reviewed more punk and hardcore albums than I knew what to do with, I somehow stumbled upon this great publicist who was sending out music from all these weird artists I'd never heard before and couldn't quite describe their music. (Shout out Blue Ghost) Xiu Xiu was among them and ever since I first heard Xiu Xiu some ten plus years ago I've listened to all the albums to follow and haven't really written about any of them until now.
One of my problems with music is that I often feel like it's frozen in time for me. I'm sure I am not the only one, but you hear an artist at a certain time and that becomes their sound to you. Many bands (not naming names) I have found on their first album and so on the albums to follow I just wasn't as into them. Some artists, I've even stopped listening to their new music because of that "Nothing's going to top this first album" mentality, which I know I need to abandon but it's just so hard when you listen to their new album and all it makes you want to do it put on the songs you fell in love with by them.
This puts me in a unique place with Xiu Xiu because I've never really had that point where I've felt like "This is the album and everything else just brings me back to it". I've enjoyed all of the Xiu Xiu albums thus far equally and yet in different ways and for different reasons. (One of the wonders of music) However, after listening to "Girl with Basket of Fruit" a number of times I decided to actually take the time to type something out about it because rather than having that "This is the album" feeling back from when I first heard Xiu Xiu, I'm having it right now. "Girl with Basket of Fruit", quite simply put, is Xiu Xiu's masterpiece.
The music is so intrusive. I imagine people being easily offended by this-- it being too abrasive or not following enough traditional standards of music to be to their liking. It's like how bands do non-traditional tuning or timing and people listen to it and think it's so crazy and weird when in reality it's just so tame compared to Xiu Xiu. I also feel that, over time, the music of Xiu Xiu has only gotten weirder, it has only pushed the limits more and more each time- and rightfully so because as time has passed people have become more open to weird music than they were ten years ago. So perhaps on the next album Xiu Xiu takes it to a whole other level and outdoes this album. I cannot predict the future, but I can say that this is my favorite album by Xiu Xiu and I love all of the Xiu Xiu songs.
Perhaps the thing I best know this album for is that on the first song, the titular track, there is a line about how "it comes out as a joke", which is the title of the second song. After listening to this album maybe two or three times and picking up on that, I had that thought of "What was that album where the title of the second song was said in the first song?" But, hopefully, you will come to know this album as being so much more. Lyrics come through more like screams than singing and the music accompanying them can send you right into space. Though I've listened to this several times through earbuds, I also like to play it loudly for my neighbors to hear and I like to think they're fairly offended by it because I assume they mostly listen to country radio.
There is a haunted feeling to these songs, not just in the delivery of the vocals but also within the music itself. It's punk in the sense that it's raw and subscribes to no particular set of rules typically placed upon music. "Amargi ve Moo" is the third song on here though and it breaks down into minimal strings with vocals, something quieter and darker for sure. I feel like this has that operatic feeling to it and if anyone was ever going to bring that Jason Segal Dracula-themed puppet show to life it'd have to be Xiu Xiu.
With "Ice Cream Truck" as an example, a lot of these songs just feel like you're being yelled at, in a one-sided argument you're never going to win and eventually you just have to accept that, make peace with it and hear the other person out. In relationships, when there are two people, that can often be the best way to keep such people together- if one of them is willing to admit that they are wrong even when they don't think that they are. You know, you have to put that other person above you. Smile and then don't.
"Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy" (Shout out Four Paws) could be the best take on a weird song on this album as the percussion leads to words and other sounds which I feel not everyone is going to get- and that's okay. Xiu Xiu does not make music which is accessible to all and that's part of the reason why I like it. I can understand why people might not like this, but I at least hope they can understand what I like about it. "Mary Turner Mary Turner" just feels like a horror movie based on the title alone and I kind of do want to try listening to this one night when it's late and see what kind of dreams it brings about.
The percussion goes a bit crazy on "Scisssssssors" and there are screams to where this is just intense. The slow piano sounds and tormented vocals which go with them leave "Girl with Basket of Fruit" to fade out on the final song. I've been thinking (and probably writing) a lot lately how albums come to an end and in this case it's more like how "The Downward Spiral" ended with "Hurt" than going out with a bang, but this just leaves you feeling when the album comes to an end it's taken a piece of you that you can never get back-- you don't feel whole anymore as the listener and that is okay.