Few acts have been as prolific as Xiu Xiu over the past decade. Since 2002, Jamie Stewart and a rotating supporting cast have released nine studio albums -- and three in the last four years -- of uncompromising and mostly bleak noise-tinged experimental post-punk. Stewart and company have already put out two releases this year: Angel Guts: Red Classroom, the band’s ninth proper studio album and Unclouded Sky, a Record Store Day release which was recorded in Sigur Ros’s personal studio in Iceland and features covers of American and Caribbean spirituals composed between 1850 and 1920.
On Thursday, Xiu Xiu performs at the Rex Theatre, opening for Swans. This tour marks the band’s second time on a bill with Swans, following a stint supporting The Seer.
In their late career revival, Michael Gira has emphasized in interviews that Swans has shifted their focus from pummeling brutality and aggression to an unlikely joy and positivity. With that, he carefully selects openers who fit within their still-confrontational sound without overwhelming or coming off as completely humorless.
Xiu Xiu fits perfectly into this mold, joining the likes of other recent Swans openers like Jenny Hval and Pharmakon. Angel Guts is considered by some to be Stewart’s darkest work to date, which is true to a point, but since the competition was already so sonically bleak to begin with (Fabulous Muscles aside), we’d already been prepared time and time again. Angel Guts also continues the trajectory of Stewart’s blatantly provocative lyrics, with songs like “Black Dick,” which manage to shock based on title alone. There’s still a sense of humor, self-awareness and deliberate hand at work here, which would have likely seemed out of place at the abusive early Swans shows.
All that remains to be seen is if Gira will join Stewart for their cover of “Under Pressure” from Women As Lovers.
Tickets to the all ages show cost $25 at the door, or $20 in advance online. Doors are at 8.
-- Shawn Cooke