Fifteen-plus years into a career characterized by the creation of emotive and often challenging music that dances precariously on the periphery of rock and pop, Xiu Xiu have delivered FORGET, the band’s first full-length studio album made up entirely of original songs since 2014. And while the new record finds the band recruiting assistance from characters as disparate as minimalist composer Charlemagne Palestine, Banjee Ball commentator Enyce Smith, and performance artist Vaginal Davis, FORGET is proof that time hasn’t altered frontman Jamie Stewart’s unwavering objective since the band’s creation. That objective being the transmission of lyrics that deal primarily with death, sexuality, and alienation all channeled through a unique, manic vocal style which has the remarkable propensity to shift from trembling despair to unbridled exuberance at the drop of a hat.
While FORGET is a less abrasive affair than 2014’s ultra-dark Angel Guts: Red Classroom, the new album leans heavily on strengths that have come into ever-increasing focus since the band’s 2010 album, Dear God, I Hate Myself. That record, as well as Xiu Xiu’s two subsequent “main” albums (Always and Angel Guts: Red Classroom) have seen the band continue to embrace synthetic elements to aid in the creation of hard-charging-death-disco anthems that succeed without sacrificing the subversive edge that has imbued all of Xiu Xiu’s work. These anthems manifest themselves most prominently on FORGET in the form of the record’s aggressive opener “The Call”, the paranoiac “Jenny GoGo”, and the surprisingly high-spirited “Wondering”.
The flipside of the aforementioned hard-charging anthems on FORGET that best harness Xiu Xiu’s balladic strengths include the tense “Queen of the Losers”, the merciful “At Last, At Last”, and perhaps most notably, the track “Get Up”. An obvious standout, “Get Up” opens with a charming, pulsing Latin rhythm that sounds as if it’s being generated by an antiquated Casio. The beat is quickly joined by a simple lead electric guitar part and Jamie softly singing about different instruments falling onto his face. The song repeatedly builds to a wordless chorus that features ever-evolving solo instrumentation, culminating in a gloriously optimistic, fuzzed-out synth finale.
Some songs don’t work as well as others. “Hay Choco Bananas” closes out the record’s first half, and while it starts promising, the track loses its way during the choruses when the sinister bass line (the song’s catchiest component) falls away. In addition, the otherwise lovely acoustic guitar that begins the album’s penultimate track, “Petite”, sounds frivolous when combined with a serious-sounding cello.
FORGET is concluded by the epic, eight-minute “Faith, Torn Apart”. The song begins with shimmering, echoing chimes which fade in before an ominous synth line and a slow, pounding rhythm walk Jamie’s mournful final lyrics directly into a solo spoken word piece that has Vaginal Davis reciting one-line impressions Stewart supposedly composed while viewing photos of sex workers.
Whether or not FORGET will help to garner new diehard Xiu Xiu followers into the fold remains to be seen. At this point it’s entirely possible that fans who may have become somewhat indifferent to the group since Xiu Xiu began filling time between their primary studio albums with collaborative projects and tribute recordings will now have a reason to check in on what the band has been up to for the last five years. And while FORGET isn’t perfect, it definitely falls in with the better half of the band’s releases and will make a solid re-jumping-on point for casual fans and erstwhile devotees alike.