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Album Review
Dear God, I Hate Myself

Dear God, I Hate Myself
by Xiu Xiu

Kill Rock Stars

Review Date
16th March 2010
Reviewed by
Paul Gallagher

It was always going to be interesting to see what would happen to Xiu Xiu post Caralee McElroy. With his distant cousin having left to join darkwave synth prose group Cold Cave, Jamie Stewart now lacks a tempering measure - McElroy always seemed to chasten his darkest visions and dilute his most macabre impurities with just an essence of calming influence. That's not saying that she held Stewart back in any way - but it was a refining impact that that made albums like the Air Force and La Foret so necessarily more refined and disciplined than the comparatively loose Knife Play and A Promise. 

But in having to build a new team of multi-instrumentalist collaborators for a whole new Xiu Xiu, Stewart has enlisted the assistance of Angela Seo (who has been fairly non-existent before joining the group, other than having a social security number and possibly having come from Ann Arbour, Michigan), cellist Gabrielle Ataylada, and friends from Deerhoof and longtime creative colleagues Greg Saunier and John Dieterich. This new album melds together the efforts of outgoing McElroy and the incoming other members, most notably Seo.

The title of Dear God, I Hate Myself is an indication of what sort of bleak temperance is contained within it. Often criticised as overly self-indulgent art school-esque experimental cartharsis, this album will surely fail to meet the criteria of music reviewers and critics the world over. Yes, there IS an element of self-deprecation and manic sensibilities evident within Stewart's lyrics and song construction - but they're regularly just as well formed and considered as any dreamboat pop single you may like to make comparisons with. 

Dear God, I Hate Myself is reminiscent of some of Xiu Xiu's most shining moments - the already mentioned The Air Force, the covers collection Tu Mi Piaci, and the glorious Grouper / Xiu Xiu split Creepshow. As a follow up to the markedly good but not standout album Women As Lovers, it could even be considered a return to form for a group that has undergone such a fluid line up in recent months.

Despite this being their seventh album and countless physical release, shock value is still something that Xiu Xiu have - the two videos released thus far include the title track where Angela Seo can be seen inducing herself to vomit while Stewart happily eats a chocolate bar. In Grey Death, Stewart and Seo are found strangling each other in the dark, spliced with footage of Seo held topless in stasis of multi-coloured bath water. Metaphorical malaise abound, both tracks are well constructed master classes of layered effects where the lyrics seek to capture the darkness of beauty and the beastliness of love (and loathing). And it's actually the best post-punk pop music Xiu Xiu has been able to produce in years. Other standouts include the intensely layered artificial blip-beep test Chocolate Makes You Happy and the relatively more sedate strings-based closer Impossible Feeling.

There is still plenty of arrogance and precociousness left in Stewart and he does still reign over all by using his sharp song writing ability as biting social commentary. Xiu Xiu have a winning formula - to emotively blanche parts of the world as well as themselves - and long let it continue.

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