The twelfth album from this highly prolific, American experimental band (currently consisting of the duo Jamie Stewart and Angela Seo), Oh No incorporates a common theme of connection while challenging both the taste and patience of any person who sits to listen to it.
To preface the rest of this review, I should point out that I have no prior listening experience with Xiu Xiu’s extensive catalogue, and as such, I may not be the most qualified person to talk about their work. Nonetheless, I will give it a go.
Starting with the sound of Oh No, the only common sonic palette among the album’s fifteen cuts, is an eclectic fusion of electropop and post-punk. However, there is wild variety within that general description; elements of punk folk, dream pop, experimental electronica and harsh noise are intertwined, with some appearing simultaneously on several cuts.
Admittedly, while the eclectic nature of Oh No is immensely admirable, this is not the easiest of listens, especially for a newcomer to the experimental genre, and at over fifty-three minutes it can easily feel like it drags on.
The album’s defining feature however, comes via each track featuring a different guest vocalist, with Sharon Van Etten (on “Sad Mezcalita”), Chelsea Wolfe (on “One Hundred Years”), and Shearwater (on “It Bothers Me All the Time”) appearing as part of an all-star indie line up, emphasising the lyrical themes of connection found throughout the album .
Stewart’s own voice has been compared to The Cure’s Robert Smith and Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor in the past. Such comparisons are definitely valid, with the Reznor comparison feeling more applicable in context of Oh No. However, it should be emphasised that there are few conventional vocals on this album, with both Stewart and company for the most part playing around with different ways to make disparaging voices blend on tracks
The most conventional moments on Oh No, arguably come in the form of Angela Seo’s vocal performance on “Fuzz Gong Fight” (who received a featured credit as a solo artist), and the cover of The Cure’s “One Hundred Years”, originally from 1982’s Pornography.
Oh No is in no way an accessible album and will likely take listeners several full runs to completely grasp its eclectic weirdness. However, it does live up to its experimental tag quite effectively!
Album Highlights: “One Hundred Years”, “Oh No”, and “Fuzz Gong Fight”.