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MUSIC: Xiu Xiu / Devendra Banhart Split 7″

Artist: Xiu Xiu /
Album: The Body Breaks / Support Our Troops Oh! (split 7″)
Label: 5RC
Released: 2005

Review: Fortunately, I was introduced to the clattering brilliance of Xiu Xiu at Pitchforkmedia’s Intonation Festival earlier this year. Along with Andrew Bird, Xiu Xiu was the highlight of the festival for me. Their set converted me and sent me on a hunt for everything with their name on it. Which brings me to this unassuming release.

Having toured together in 2003, Xiu Xiu and Devendra Banhart were so smitten with each other’s style and songwriting that they decided to release a split where they cover each other’s songs. Nothing pleases me more than a cover of someone who rarely approaches your own style of songcrafting.

Unfamiliar with Banhart (though I am sure that will not last long after having listened to this record repeatedly since my purchase), I can only comment on the unusually steady and catchy beat that Xiu Xiu’s cover of The Body Breaks keeps. Still laced with the playful noise and unsteady singing voice of Jamie Stewart, the song makes you tap your foot in preparation for the mental/aural breakdown and collapse that is sure to come. The surprise of the cover lies in this expectation and the fact that it is not met. Though the finale of Xiu Xiu’s version of The Body Breaks consists of echoed metal clanking akin to a child let loose in a walk-in freezer full of pots, pans and wooden spoons, it is restrained and ends as abruptly as it starts. This may be the closest Xiu Xiu has come to recording a pop song, though you will still have to seek out the recording at your local record shop because I doubt any radio will broadcast Stewart’s wavering achey voice any time soon.

Devendra Banhart’s cover of Xiu Xiu’s typically disturbing Support Our Troops Oh! sounds as if it was recorded in the same walk-in freezer, but noisy it is not. Instead, the delivery of the horrifying lyrics about looking into a dead girl’s skull and negotiating drunkenly with her father about taking her body back to her home are served in a lounge Doo-Wop style that only enhances the horror of the content. Backed with a simple guitar, finger snapping and Devendra’s own tracked backup wahs, the song is catchy enough to stick in your head. Though I don’t know if you will want it to once you pay attention to the words.

Cut to a beautiful marble colored vinyl, these are two brief and awkward tracks that are a welcome collection to my Xiu Xiu collection…as well as what I presume will be my future Devendra Banhart collection.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Purchase Xiu Xiu / Devendra Banhart split 7″ from 5RC: Consume.

Buy other Xiu Xiu Releases from Insound.com: Consume

Buy other Devendra Banhart Releases from Insound.com: Consume

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