Xiu Xiu – “Clowne Towne”
appears on Fabulous Muscles
I’m not exactly sure how this one happened. Xiu Xiu aren’t bad by any means. They’ve released a handful of decent albums, the best of which – 2004’s Fabulous Muscles – was good enough that I bothered to go out and buy a copy. They’ve always been more about mood, confrontation and experimentation than accessibility, so when it comes to individual song highlights they come few and far between, thoroughly dominated by the discordant noise freak0uts that Jamie Stewart obviously favours. So what’s the deal with “Clowne Towne?” How is it that a band so utterly preoccupied with being abrasive and impenetrable turned out one of the decade’s most perfect, albeit idiosyncratic pop tunes? The lead guitar line feels like an instant classic, sentimental chords shimmering against the snaps, bells and whistles that make up the song’s surrounding world (it may be accessible, but it’s still Xiu Xiu – there are noisy bits). Stewart’s vocal performance is perhaps the most tender it’s ever been – he doesn’t scream once! – enunciating all the right turns of phrase and quavering with mania at the end of every line, thereby giving his cryptic lyrics an air of intense importance. “Clowne Towne” is absolutely perfect, and Xiu Xiu never made another song even half as good.