REVIEW: Xiu Xiu/The Jim Yoshii Pile-Up: Insound Tour Split EP
Xiu Xiu/The Jim Yoshii Pile-Up: Insound Tour Support #26 [Insound, 2003]
Three words? tortured, tragic musings
If the aftermath of grunge rock taught us nothing else, it's that big guys cry too - though usually they hide their feelings behind crunching power-chords and big, throaty (and often banal) vocals. Labelmates Xiu Xiu and The Jim Yoshii Pile-Up are big guys who cry, and while the latter shares many of the qualities of their grunge forefathers, Xiu Xiu are unlike anything you've ever heard – alternately terrifying and heartbreaking.
Xiu Xiu frontman Jamie Stewart's lyrics, out of context, will seem inappropriate and almost silly - but to see him deliver these lines in person is an entirely different story. I recently had the opportunity to see Stewart perform solo and he held an audience in complete silence, belting out lyrics that clearly resonated from someplace dark within himself. I wouldn't be surprised if some people were in tears. One of the highlights was "Fabulous Muscles" which appears here. With a refrain that has Stewart yelling "cremate me after you come on my lips," and asking his lover to put the "ashes in a vase beneath your workout bench," this simple delivery with an acoustic guitar and raw percussion gets under your skin and really puts Xiu Xiu in a class by the themselves. [I'll say! -- Ed.] Their music is not merely sad, but puts words to suffering. If only Tim Kinsella could wipe his self-aware smirk off his face, Joan Of Arc they could reach the plateaus of the similarly pop structured – and downright sincere - Xiu Xiu, instead of retreading a film-school drop out schtick.
By comparison, The Jim Yoshii Pile-Up are altogether radio-friendly. At their worst, the earnest, guitar driven melancholia recalls Creed (albeit without the Jesus Christ posturing). Thankfully, the Pile-Up manages to keep things from cliche, though Paul Gozenbach's earnest full-voiced musings do not make it easy. "Seattle, WA," starts the disc nicely, longing for a move up north to a "house with a porch"; but it's "Birthday Cake" that stands out, here. Perhaps taking a cue from Jamie Stewart, Gozenbach's revenge fantasy is similarly disturbing: "I put a file in your birthday cake / A cheap cliche and a half-hearted gesture / It's what you asked for this year." It's The Jim Yoshii Pile-Up's most honest line on the CD, and stands out among the diary entries that line the other songs.
Though limited to 1,000 copies, this EP serves as a nice introduction to both bands. For the diehard JYPU fans these songs are exclusive to the disc, but Xiu Xiu lovers needn't worry as all the tracks will be appearing on their forthcoming full-length. The only downside is the odd arrangement of each band, trading off odd and even tracks. With both groups offering unique visions, it's jarring to listen to this straight through. I would advise reburning the CD with one band following the other.