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Music / Xiu Xiu

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Jamie Stewart
Xiu Xiu is an avant-garde rock/synthpop band, the brainchild of Jamie Stewart. They were founded after the dissolution of Stewart's previous band, Ten In The Swear Jar, several of whose songs went on to become Xiu Xiu tracks. The band takes its name from a notoriously depressing Chinese art-house film, Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl, about a young woman who becomes a prostitute to survive after her life is all but destroyed by poverty.

This choice of name is telling.


  • Album Intro Track: "Angel Guts:" on Angel Guts: Red Classroom.
  • Animated Music Video: "Jenny Go Go" mixes this with Stylistic Suck for a rather unsettling experience.
  • Anti-Love Song: A large portion of Xiu Xiu's back catalogue has made great use of this trope.
    • "Jennifer Lopez" is a sort of open letter to the eponymous singer, asking if she ever gets upset about the fact that her music soundtracks so many men's broken hearts and sexual frustrations in (presumably gay) bars around the world every Friday night.
    • "Sad Pony Guerrilla Girl" is surely in the running for "creepiest love song ever". Best case scenario is it's about a girl having a one sided affair with a married woman, and being unhappy with the arrangement, but too in love with her to break it off. The song also alludes to the woman beating her up, and the line "I am your little girl" may or may not be intended literally.
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    • Perhaps the ultimate example is "Fabulous Muscles". It's about a young gay man with a muscle fetish who unromantically fellates a closeted jock, who then freaks out and kills him. However, the song is delivered in a tone that suggests he's relatively okay with this scenario. Sample lyrics: "Cremate me after you cum on my lips, honey boy. / Place my ashes in a vase beneath your workout bench."
    • "Get Up" is about an Extreme Doormat who stays in an abusive relationship because they have so little self-worth they think they deserve it.
    • "Little Panda McElroy" seems to be a straight love song on paper, but its subtext is that the narrator is loving an idealized version of another person as a way to avoid confronting their self-loathing and the relationship is not built to last.
  • Arc Words: "Born dead" shows up in a few songs on FORGET, including the very last line of the album.
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  • Author Appeal: Jamie seems to be a big fan of Asian cinema; the band name is taken from a Chinese drama film, while Angel Guts: Red Classroom is the name of a Japanese exploitation movie.
  • Black Comedy: "When you get to be my age, the police don't assume that you still like to light things on fire. Bearing that in mind, I wouldn't trust me either!" ("Boy Soprano")
  • Careful with That Axe: "Ian Curtis Wishlist", among many others.
    • "Je t'aime the vallEEEEYY, je t'aime the valley- OOOOOOHHH!"
    • That horrific, blood-curdling shriek of "GREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN!" in "A Knife in the Sun."
  • Concept Album:
    • FORGET has a lot of themes related to sex trafficking, though whether it tells a concrete story or not is debated.
    • Girl With Basket of Fruit doesn't tell a story, but has a running theme of violence against women.
  • Cover Album: Xiu Xiu Plays the Music of Twin Peaks should be pretty self-explanatory.
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: Averted. Xiu Xiu have a habit of covering songs without changing any of the pronouns. Considering singer Jamie Stewart is quite camp (and has written many songs of his own sung to men, both from male and female perspectives), this is almost always the least troubling example of The Cover Changes the Meaning in their versions however.
    • Their version of "Don't Cha" by the Pussycat Dolls is a particularly notable effort. Instead of playing up on the joke of covering a dodgy pop song, he sings it entirely straight and turns it into a kind of moving - and deeply disturbing - tale of a man refusing to let his bisexual lover leave his wife for him.
    • They even do it to their own songs, releasing two different versions of Helsabot, one sung plaintively by regular singer Jamie Stewart and the other by (now-former) member Caralee Mcelroy, who has quite a sweet, girlish voice. Though they don't change the lyrics, considering the song deals with the antics of a violent alcoholic robot, lines like "I did something bad, I got in a fight, about drugs, kicked him in the neck" have wildly differing contexts.
    • Though "Fast Car", originally by Tracy Chapman, doesn't really gender the narrator, they still manage it. The song changes from being a blue collar couple escaping for a better life elsewhere, to a young homosexual's dream of leaving for the big city.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: "I Broke Up" gives us the delightful shouted line "THIS IS THE WORST VACATION EVER!/I AM GOING TO CUT OPEN YOUR FOREHEAD WITH A ROOFING SHINGLE!" Just an idea, but perhaps lines like that are why they broke up?
  • Darker and Edgier: In a discography filled with harsh and intense music, Angel Guts: Red Classroom and Girl With Basket of Fruit stand out as especially punishing albums.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: The protagonist of FORGET.
  • Downer Ending: Almost all of their storytelling songs, as Jamie Stewart has expressed fondness for songs that "narrate some particular horrible things that happen to somebody and there's no positive resolution in the end at all." For an album example, FORGET ends with the one-two punch of "Petite" and "Faith, Torn Apart", showing the protagonist crossing the Despair Event Horizon and either killing themselves or becoming an Empty Shell.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: Jamie Stewart has been to known to break out a Nintendo DS or a Game Boy.
  • Extreme Doormat: The narrator of "Get Up", who seems to be in a relationship with someone that both physically and emotionally abuses them, but stays because they feel worthless and think it's the only thing they deserve. If it's the same narrator as the rest of the album, it's possible the person being sung to is their pimp.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: "El Naco."
  • Gorn: The video for "Stupid in the Dark" shows Angela Seo brutally murdering her boyfriend (not in real life obviously).
  • Horrible History Metal: Emphasis on horrible. "Support Our Troops OH!" and "Mary Turner Mary Turner" are depictions of, respectively, murders of civilians by American soldiers during the Iraq War, and the utterly horrific lynching of a pregnant black woman by a white mob in Georgia in 1918.
  • I Am the Band: Jamie Stewart is the sole constant member of the band.
  • Ironic Name: "Support Our Troops OH!" is definitely not pro-troop.
  • Kissing Cousins: When Caralee Mcelroy joined the band, Jamie Stewart claimed she was his long lost cousin. Which, if true, makes some of their promotional pictures during her stint a bit creepy.
  • Large Ham: Jamie can easily rival Scott Walker in this department.
  • Longest Song Goes Last: Jamie really seems to like this.
    • Knife Play ends with "Tonite and Today (What 'chu talkin' bout)" (5:23).
    • Fabulous Muscles ends with "Mike" (5:14).
    • The Green Corridor Series #02 ends with "Fortune Teller" (20:55).
    • Nina ends with "Flo Me La" (6:51).
    • Unclouded Sky ends with "Just As I Am" (8:19).
    • Plays the Music of Twin Peaks ends with "Josie's Theme" (7:50).
    • FORGET ends with "Faith, Torn Apart" (7:56).
  • Loss of Identity: The dehumanization of sex workers into disposable objects is arguably the Central Theme of FORGET.
  • Madness Mantra: Jamie uses this a lot.
    • "Black dick! Black dick! Black dick!"
    • "Everyone loves you, the pain has just begun, everyone hates you, the pain has just begun..."
    • "Forget who you are, don't admit who you are, forget who you are, don't admit who you are..."
  • Protest Song: "Support Our Troops OH!" and "Gul Mudin" protest American war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan respectively.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The band has a lot of songs about the horror of sexual abuse.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "Support Our Troops OH!" is one of these directed at a soldier in the Iraq War, accusing them of being a sociopath who signed up just to kill people.
    "You shot your grenade launcher into people's windows and the doors of people's houses, but you wanted to shoot it into someone just to watch them blow up. Why should I care if you get killed?"
  • Singer Namedrop: Jamie Stewart refers to an ambiguous "J.S." in a couple songs, particularly "Ian Curtis Wishlist" and "Secret Motel".
  • Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: Girl With Basket of Fruit is split between deliberate absurdist comedy and genuine horror. Showcased with the first two songs; the Title Track has Jamie deliriously screaming nonsensical lyrics about bizarre sexual imagery, only for "It Comes Out as a Joke" to come along and repeat several lyrics from the preceding song in a much more menacing context, recontextualizing it as being about a rape. "Mary Turner Mary Turner" is another example of this juxtaposition; the lyrics are a straightforward description of a horrific murder, but Jamie performs it like a depraved vaudeville presenter, making the song feel like a carnival act from hell.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: "Support Our Troops OH!" is directed at one.
  • Surreal Music Video: Most of them, though "A Knife in the Sun", "Jenny Go Go", and "Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy" stand out for sheer Lynchian weirdness.
  • Surreal Horror: Massive amounts, especially on Angel Guts: Red Classroom and Girl With Basket of Fruit.
  • Tranquil Fury: Jamie's spoken word in "Support Our Troops OH!" is flat and monotone, but it's clear from the lyrics that he's seething with hatred at the subject of the song.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Insofar as it tells a story, FORGET seems to tell of a young person's downward spiral into prostitution, culminating in a Despair Event Horizon and implied suicide in the final track.
  • War Is Hell: "Support Our Troops OH!" is about US war crimes during the Iraq War, including a graphic description of a 4 year old girl getting her head blown off by US Marines who were firing indiscriminately at the car she was riding in. "Gul Mudin", meanwhile, is about a 15 year old Afghan boy who was tortured and murdered for sport by a squad of US Marines.
  • Widget Series: A quintessential WAT.
  • Word-Salad Horror: "Jenny Go Go" has a lot of nonsense rhymes and borderline baby talk interspersed with lines like "What have I done?" and "Take me instead". In the context of the album, it could arguably represent the protagonist withdrawing into a childlike state of mind to cope with the constant sexual abuse they're forced to endure.