Jamie Stewart was born in 1978 in Los Angeles. He began Xiu Xiu in 2002 and began to waste his life.
Normally I try to avoid making public any overt explanations as to what any of our records or songs are about lyrically. Whenever asked—and although it is quite fair to pose a band this question—I will usually say that it is not my business to define these things for the listener. One’s own thoughts don’t need any of my inane disruptions. Obviously I have my own ideas about the lyrics, but the hope is that anyone who might check them out has their own experience: good or bad, expanded or null.
Occasionally I have just said “sure” and gone through it all point by point, but then I always felt jive and hypocritical for having done so. Talkhouse, being one of only three good music rags that there are and therefore sensitive, understand the fact that I am a prickly and pretentious D-bag snob. They proposed that instead of an implicit deciphering that I could, song by song, discuss the books and images that made the lyrics what they are. More how-did-you-get-here, less what-do-you-got-here.
Angela Seo, who played on, edited, and produced the record (along with the ineffable Greg Saunier) will, from each song, select her favorite and least favorite of said lyrics. I did this for a Talkhouse review of a Morrissey record that was less than kind, and it was suggested to me that is more than fair to be made to sit through such a shitty form of assessment myself.
Generally, Xiu Xiu songs are narratives about the internal effects of external events. For this record, not with any predetermined intent but just a blissless trundling after pretzels dropped by The Muse, the lyrics were taken largely from the internal effects of internal events: reactions to and explorations of other people’s TEXTS (see: Get in the Van) and images.
World events being the more-so-than-usual extra-baffling horrors that they are, and witnessing the literal onset of the end of known human civilization through engineered and purposeful environmental erasure, led to a feral draw toward the only thing humans have ever been good (or at least interesting) at: the intersection of Aesthetic Culture/Art & “Underground” Spirituality. Dig it while it lasts. As a species we are going to be over soon, so in the midst of this rapid disintegration, what have the specific, current collected interests done to the insides of your humble author? What has IT been made to feel by them, informed IT of and how have they scandalized IT.
The lyrics were made by writing 666,666,666 pages of unedited, slug-like instinctual notes based on chugging through the heretofore presented works, inhaling them deeply and then trying to write down and play where the hearts and minds of Earth’s betters or worsers shoved ITS own mind and heart. Sometimes this led to direct cops and sometimes this led to who-knows-what-or-why. It is an effigy of sorts to their parting gifts, maybe?
A bunch of other people made this record, too, and I am sure they went about it in their own way: no bosses, no queens, no alpha chimpanzA nor chimpanzee. Regarding that and the initial statement of this write up, there will be few explanations captioning the photos—do what thou wilt.
“Girl with Basket of Fruit”
This image is the crux of the record. When this title is a boy it is fey and lovely. When it is a girl is worrisome and rife with danger. Male martyrs are almost always surrounded by nurses, their mothers, adoring angels and other loving disciples wrapping their crushed and holy bodies in strips of herb soaked cloth and weeping rapturously. Female martyrs are almost always depicted having their skin flayed, breasts branded or ripped off with tongs or being stabbed and they are always, always alone save for her murderers. There is never anyone by their sides celebrating their spiritual life, only fiendishly reveling in their torture of her. It is perilous to be a “girl.” Look at almost any paintings of girls from this era and it feels tense, as tense as it is now and as tense as it remains. Fuck this world.
There are several songs that obsessive have lists. Book of Palms is an obsessive list of palms.
When The Life Promiser makes her say any word
It comes out as a joke
LEAST FAVE LYRIC
Her boob gets so floppy she uses it as a fan to wave away
His sickening B.O.
“It Comes Out as a Joke”
Bedroom filling with true black
Bedroom filling with smoke smoke
A pig wearing a maid’s apron and cap
“Amargi ve Moo”
My sister and best friend is slogging through the most boring but brutal disease. The music is from an original piece composed and played by the superb bassist Devin Hoff. He titled it “Amargi” after the Turkish feminist activists of the same name. Moo is the nickname of the song’s subject.
Let her be reborn as something unruinable
A meteor, a mushroom, a kakapo
A sparkling out of control
Don’t answer KNOCK KNOCK!
Don’t answer, only answer for your fear of God
Don’t answer for the nothings else
“Ice Cream Truck”
Jerk shack named The Gut
I wasn’t going to hurt you, I’ve heard that one before
I wasn’t going to hurt you, I’ve said that one before
“Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy”
These lyrics are by Elliot Reed, Angela Seo, and myself.
He was such an asshole baby who
Terrorizes all the kids in the neighborhood
And I am kind of dorky ass goof ball weirdo
So I can get why some people don’t like me
(Jamie here—I would like to note that Angela drunk improv-ed all her lyrics and this is the last thing she said. To me, it’s the best line on the record. She is shy about being so clear about insecurity but I think it is beautiful that she was.)
“The Wrong Thing”
Sit by me and do the wrongest thing
All the cubes and squares go home
“Mary Turner, Mary Turner”
ALL OF THIS IS TOO TERRIBLE
Mary Turner, Mary Turner
Mary Hattie Graham
19 years old and pregnant
Hazel Turner, Hazel Turner
Murdered by a lynch mob
She declares his crime a crime
And running for her life
She is, she is captured, captured at Folsom Bridge
Gasoline and motor oil smeared on her clothes
She is hung up by her ankles from a tree
A match is struck and she is set ablaze
Mary Turner, Mary Turner while still burning
Mary Turner, Mary Turner while still alive
Split open with a knife
Unborn Child falls from her womb
From her womb onto the ground
Looking up, looking up
The first and only light it ever sees
The flames, the flames of its mother’s burning, burning
Reaching out, reaching out
The first and only loving touch it receives
The falling ash of its mommy’s hair on fire
The baby, baby cried in the dirt
Quieted, quieted by a boots heel
Mother and child, mother and child
999 more bullets from the crowd
Mary Turner, Mary Turner buried where they were murdered
A cigar stuffed in a whisky jug, a whisky jug to mark the grave
Fuck your guns, Fuck you wars
Fuck your truck, Fuck your flag
Dear Dr. Duck,
What’s the solution for people like us?
And now sow bugs the size of real sows?!
Sprinkle goofer dust
Secrets of the Psalms might uncross anything
I think I have shown you
I don’t need it to be fair
I think I have shown
I don’t need you to be kind
(Photo Credit: left, Sharon Van Etten)