Published Feb 04, 2014Hot on the heels of Nina, their bizarre and fascinating Nina Simone covers album, Xiu Xiu bring us another platter of horrific, twisted avant-pop with Angel Guts: Red Classroom. Caught midway between contemporary Scott Walker and Suicide in both content and sound, Angel Guts: Red Classroom is a concept album about the violent area of L.A. that Xiu Xiu singer Jamie Stewart found himself in upon returning to the city. Uncomfortable, sickening, sometimes hilarious and always compelling, it's part horror movie soundtrack, part pop-opera, and shares the same obtuse, unsettling imagery and breathless, faux-operatic vocal style as the later work from the aforementioned Walker.
Taking its name from a title of Japanese extreme porn, the threat of violence — some of it sexual, some of it racial, some of it economic — permeates the whole terrifying ordeal, the lyrics underscored by industrial rattlings that wouldn't be out of place on an Einstürzende Neubauten release. The intentions behind the album seem less about trying to be shocking and more about a gratuitous enjoyment of exploring the perverse and the extreme. The songwriting is fantastic — try "Lawrence Liquors" on for size — and the cinematic, dark and ferocious production is impeccable. And although Stewart is clearly a bit wrong in the head, as long as Xiu Xiu keep putting out albums like this, we can all be grateful. (Polyvinyl)