Jamie Stewart’s music is very difficult to absorb. The beating heart of Xiu Xiu, his music is a depressing explosion of teen angst and horrific life circumstances with little regard to pop music structure. In fact Xiu Xiu can be said to be one huge hissy fit against pop music.
Up along the rocks
It’s good. It’s not so hard.
I bite my tongue.
Who cares? This chance to drop off.
“Apistat Commander” starts out with a quiet pulsing beat topped with a forlorn melody whispered ever so quietly by Stewart. After the first verse and chorus, a burst of popping percussion pierces the serenity hinting at the chaos that is to come. Even though the chaos of the chorus is expected, what happens is completely out of left field.
Instead of a tirade that destroys the world, what we get is a Spector-esque wall of sound with Stewart wailing ever so melodically. Instead of a jarring experience it’s the epitome of catharsis rarely accomplished in music.
All that you left, you left for someone.
All of this life that’s wilted on.
Oh this relief it’s the hardest thing.
Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god.
This song was perfect when it came out in February 2003. We were already in Afghanistan and were getting ready to invade Iraq. The world was a very polarizing place to be in.
Just days before the album was released, millions of people around the U.S. and the world rallied to protest the inevitable war and the level of deceit that polluted the world. I attended the protest in Hollywood marching down Hollywood Blvd. before snaking to the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Vine St. for a rally featuring Gore Vidal, Susan Sarandon and other celebrities.
I hadn’t eaten the whole day and during the rally looked to walk back to my car. As I was walking out there was a splinter protest group filled with wannabe anarchists who started clashing with the police. The police were starting to arrest people, and I just made a bee-line the other way. No way I was going to be arrested on an empty stomach.
As I was walking away, I heard a policeman scream, “Hey you! In the red Che shirt! Get back here!”
Fuck. But I figured if they really wanted me, they would run and grab me. They didn’t. So I went through a side street and managed to get to my car.
With all the media coverage that night, it felt a bit empowering. I was a part of something that made a statement, made an imprint in this huge world of ours. But then to hear the Bush administration dismiss it and plunge head-first into war, I realized just how impotent we really were. Politics is just a farce giving people the illusion of having power. See Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.
So Xiu Xiu’s music really touched me. It was a cathartic way to yell against this machine. It probably is just as effective as the protests, but at least it was more fun.