Written on 18/03/2012 by Luke Bather • No Comments

Xiu Xiu – Live Review

Ruby Lounge, March 13th
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Change is all the rage! It’s good to throw a curve ball every once in a while and catch people off guard. With this in mind, and after being completely off my radar for about a year it’s good to see Deaf to Van Gough’s Ear, no, wait. Sorry – ‘New Hips’ really reinvent themselves from their humble beginnings as a messy sounding Tesco Value substitute for Anathallo into a messy sounding Tesco Value substitute for Anathallo with a new drummer!They also get the prestigious ‘Cats In Paris Award for most local support slots gained since Cats In Paris stopped playing them all’. Looks like I don’t really like New Hips.Trumpets of Death are what I like to call a ‘Soundcloud Band’. Picture this – you have a soundcloud account, you get a new follower, you listen to the music said new follower has created. “Oh joy of joys” you think to yourself. “Another bit of pretentious, vapid, experimental electronic drone. This is just what I want to hear – I bet it transfers really well into a live performance environment.” Well, you’re right to be so sarcastic and cynical – Trumpets of Death seem to have the unique ability to blend into the background even if you’re giving them your full attention.

I know what you’re thinking. (Okay, I don’t. But I’m about to tell you what you should be thinking anyway.) There’s not much in the way of ‘change’ running through this review, in fact it all seems to be a bit same-y. You’re right to think this, but Xiu Xiu haven’t had a mention yet and that’s probably why you’re here, right?

Having reviewed new album ‘Always’ quite positively a few weeks ago for this very website, I was very much looking forward to seeing how the frenzied pop sounds of the new album would transfer in a live setting.  So needless to say I was stunned when Xiu Xiu took to the stage looking almost like a ‘normal’ band. To clarify – Jamie Stewart barely used the synth set up to his right in favour of a distorted guitar, not to mention being backed by a drummer (with a full kit as opposed to just towers of various percussive items, no less), a baritone guitarist and a dedicated synth player – this was a Xiu Xiu set that brought harsh electronic noise and turned it into a completely new animal.

If you’ve ever wondered what Xiu Xiu would sound like as a post-hardcore band with noise rock leanings, then not only do you have very specific hypothetical thoughts, but you also should have been at this show. Choosing to only speak to the crowd to ask them permission to play a Joy Division cover in Manchester (incidentally the best Joy Division cover I’ve ever heard) and to thank them for their time, Xiu Xiu concentrate on giving their all into playing an intense hour-long set that felt almost like a ‘best-of’ with huge musical crescendos sounding almost anthemic in places while sparse dynamic contrasts and trademark whispering vocals sounded haunting, even in a room full of stunned twenty-somethings. Although I guess I’ll have to wait a little while longer to hear ‘Hives Hives’ live.

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