too much typing—since 2003


knives and cockfights

I can't say I listen to Xiu Xiu terribly often - one has to be in a particular mood to appreciate Jamie Stewart's extravagant emotional exhibitionism, for one thing - but they're one of those bands that always garner more respect from me than enjoyment. But then, "enjoyment" probably isn't the point. I don't know that "respect" is either - but even if sometimes it sounds like several bands at once accompanied by a Chinese opera pit orchestra being shoved down a flight of stairs into an echo chamber, their music creates its own coherence. And one of its elements that does so is the surprising fact, beyond the clatter and noise, that they're capable of writing extremely tuneful songs. In another life - one in which their urge to, say, make money making music was considerably stronger - they probably have the melodic skills to take on the Coldplays of the world.

So in a way it's not too surprising to me that, listening to Knife Play the other day in the car, I suddenly found myself thinking of Scott Walker's Tilt. Probably not the most obvious connection - but Walker actually did have his moment in the hitmaking sun, which he forsook for following his far more difficult (and notoriously occasional) muse. It's a fair guess that more people think of Walker as a melodist, but his voice, too (in quite a different way from Stewart's) is wayward, extravagant, overblown, even off-putting to some. I recall putting on Tilt for someone a few years back, and as Walker sang the first notes of "Farmer in the City" (the album's opening track) my friend smirked, what the hell is this - the goddamned opera? No one is ever likely to mistake Stewart for Pavarotti - but it's also true that Walker's musical territory sometimes drapes his often quite hummable vocal lines in exotic and extravagant outfits.

For a suggestion of proof, listen to the two tracks I've posted: Walker's song "The Cockfighter" (which could even be a Xiu Xiu title...) and Xiu Xiu's "Don Diasco." (In fact, listen to them in that order so the percussion segues between the two tracks.) Both tracks veer unpredictably from quiet to loud, from becalmed to frantic, with unexpected instrumentation (the blaring trumpet halfway through "The Cockfighter," what sounds like someone throwing an overdriven microphone directly at an overloaded guitar's strings in "Don Diasco"), and both - listened to away from the preconception that noise precludes melody - prove their very different vocalists' melodic mettle.

Scott Walker "The Cockfighter"
Xiu Xiu "Don Diasco"


Anonymous said...

Jeff, both of these "songs" suck. What kind of drugs are you on, anyway? But you're right, at least they suck in very similar ways.


2fs said...

Glad to be of service, Rog!