Over the past decade, Xiu Xiu’s experimental indie efforts are known for a few things: sex, loudness and sad endings.
This is also true of the band’s most recent album, “FORGET,” which was released on Feb. 24; but for what it’s worth, you can actually sort of dance to it. Somehow, one of the most depressing experimental bands of the 2000s managed to release a pop album without giving up what makes it tick.
“FORGET” starts with “The Call,” which is the perfect intro to this departure from purist experimentation. While its lyrical material, vocal style and hard cuts between different sections are similar to songs in Xiu Xiu’s past, the poppy synths and upbeat rhythms are extremely uncharacteristic when considering the band’s earlier efforts. It’s a song about loneliness, but that theme takes a backseat to instrumentals that can make you feel good.
“Wondering,” the album’s promotional single, is another song that almost — but not quite — fits that bill. It’s a song that would probably feel right at home in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” or literally any other bittersweet indie teen drama. Frontman Jamie Stewart’s weird vocal style plays best with the album’s pop vibes here because it mixes a melancholy mood with upbeat rhythms; not only are the lyrics predictably depressing, it’s a summer-style bop washed over in a sepia tone of regret.
After “Wondering,” the album gradually starts becoming more experimental, and honestly, that’s a good thing — it’s like a primer for the rest of the band’s discography. “Hay Choco Bananas” is a ballad that slowly incorporates industrial-sounding drum work with funeral bells until it starts screaming at you like a dial-up modem.
“Jenny GoGo” has a style that borrows heavily from Euro-pop while still incorporating the harsh tones Xiu Xiu is familiar with. “Forget,” the title track, is combines many genres at once, but the most distinct one can only really be categorized as noise-pop; it’s discordant, messy, harsh, off-key and off-rhythm, yet it all works together.
The last song on the album, “Faith, Torn Apart,” is the culmination of the album as a whole. It stops pretending to be pop and dives right into the offbeat stuff Xiu Xiu is better known for. It’s edited to create this fraying effect that undoes the more upbeat entries from earlier on. The last three minutes of the song are a reflection of everything that came before it on the album, taking the form of a very carefully enunciated poem performed by genderqueer punk rocker Vaginal Davis.
“FORGET” is an album that doesn’t really fit squarely in the realm of pop, but it’s not totally avant-garde either. It’s daring enough to attract fans of earlier material from the band but goes down easy enough to also attract fans of more traditional pop. Xiu Xiu has not made any sacrifices in their attempt to broaden their appeal.