Ten in the Swear Jar
Xiu Xiu fans rejoice as Asian Man releases this collection of songs by Jamie Stewart and Cory McCulloch's previous band. These pieces were originally released on three eps, one of which a very limited release (Eat Death Orphans). The songs are good, some will be familiar (Chapel of The Chimes' "King Earth," Fag Patrol's "Helsabot," A Promise's "Sad Pony Guerilla Girl" and Fabulous Muscles' "I Love the Valley") other will strike you as awesome ("San Jose Fight Song" is as good as its titles hints), others will leave you perplexed. In other words, it works like a Xiu Xiu record, without the unity, and with much more songs (22). There are the same succesful attempts at connecting pop and experimentation, the same unsettling empathy in Jamie Stewart's voice, with bigger, more bombastic arrangements and a smart use of accordions and saxophones.
The band didn't last long but their output is impressive, the songs Stewart recycled for Xiu Xiu often sound devastatingly great, "King Earth" is majestuous and "Sad Pony Guerilla Girl" reaches a state of oppression that can't be found in A Promise's quiet version. The unknown songs are were the treat is: "When You Write" is a gorgeous, cute (!) love (!!!) song, "Worry Boy" is slowly growing into one of my favourites. "Sita Deth," relies on quiet/noisy dynamics, finds Stewart screaming I WISH IT WAS DIFFERENT at the top of his lungs, unleashing intensity in his own scary, deeply human way, with the accordion and the saxophone high in the mix, playing parts made for guitars. Accordion Solo! shows a band that sounds genuinely original without going all-out on experimentation, and even though Ten in the Swear Jar has been long dead, it leaves me wanting for more.
/sept 1st 2005/