Irregular PA music correspondent MRP joins us again for another foray into Music We May or May Not Know About But Ought To, Even If It Means Making Normative Claims That We're Normally Too Polite To Enforce. Up now: Oakland-based experimental indie-ers Xiu Xiu, who we'd like to point out are not, collectively, the Taiwanese balladeering sensation of the same name.
Sunday night, I saw you play live for, let's say, the fourth time. Maybe it was the fifth.
I got there early and waited for a friend. The show was in an hour or so. Anyway, that third time I saw you play, I got unexpectedly drunk. I feel sorry for that friend. It was a different friend than the one who accompanied me Sunday night - I keep exposing different people to your live performances, hoping that they'll "get it" (do people still use scare quotes like that?) more easily than if I just give them a few songs from an album - for a first-time listener, that one about cum on lips and a workout bench can be a doozy.
From outside, the gathered crowd (18+) appeared older than I'd expected, and I was happy about that. I was happy not just because I wouldn't have to entertain 19-year-olds asking me to buy them drinks. I was happy because it meant that, some members' of the crowd's hipster posturing aside, we don't forget certain things as we get older.
I tend to describe your music to others as 'the screamed diaries of a 16-year-old street hustler, suffering from gender dysmorphia,' or something to that effect. And I describe it that way with nothing but fandom and admiration and excitement in my heart. I am about twice as old as the hypothetical author of said hypothetical diaries, and live a life arguably outside your songs' primary frames of reference, and so sometimes veer toward self-consciousness when asserting my fandom to others. But standing outside the venue and seeing the crowd gathered with their cigarettes, I was comforted to know that my quiet suspicion is correct: in the end, who gives a damn how old I am.
Listening to your records one gathers evidence in favor of a truly democratic idea: that suffering, passion, fear, and love are felt across the board, regardless of age, gender, orientation, background, foreground, hairstyle, or income bracket - and that a good song can offer comfort or articulate a feeling you didn't know you had, no matter who you are. This is a fact I fear gets lost too often in today's world of "You don't know my story! Step off!" reality TV logic, where the emphasis on my "unique" experience somehow legitimizes my acting like a dick to another human being. In what world are we each of us so alone that the necessary singularity of my life story makes me somehow better than you?
In truth, we have all lost and learned, or failed to learn, or endured abuse, or simply felt alone - and while it is a fool's errand to try to rank each other's tragedies (a friend calls it "misery poker') - I refuse to believe that it is not worthwhile to realize how we can find comfort in knowing that on some primitive, basic, human level, we've all been there, however Hallmark that may end up sounding. But you know what? Your songs make me know it's true, allow me to believe that no matter what a confused teenager, or a tormented 20-something, or any other human being may be suffering through, there's someone there for them, even if that "someone" is a song. A loud, discordant, raw, uncomfortable, beautiful, borderline ridiculous song.
Listening to this suffering and, in the end, this catharsis, isn't - and shouldn't be - easy, and Women as Lovers is no exception. It confronts certain horrible, ugly, melodramatic truths more directly than on your recent albums. But then again, you never said it would be easy; you just promised you'd be there.
Also, I am partial to the ones that make me want to dance as if I, well, as if I were sixteen again. I know you'd have my back.