DVD Review: Xiu Xiu “You Can’t Hear Me”

xiuxiudvdThe front cover of Xiu Xiu‘s You Can’t Hear Me (Music Video Distributors) bears the curious disclaimer: “Xiu Xiu does not endorse the sound quality of the performance on this DVD.” You can hardly blame them. From the outset, the band’s jagged, aching art pop captured here—all of it recorded live—is overmodulated and distressingly fuzzy. There is some interesting, sweaty performance footage, but it’s intercut with director Courtney Fathom Sell’s short narratives (a young man is tied up and abused at the hands of two assailants; a young woman struggles with an STD), roughly animated scenes of holocaust or atmospheric shots of skylines, some with jellyfish floating next to the tall buildings. You Can’t Hear Me is not technically a live DVD, but it does prompt the question: Wouldn’t the studio recordings serve the same purpose without the accompanying loss in audio quality? Still, there is a certain charm to Sell’s filmed pieces. Many have a slightly voyeuristic quality similar to the strange Polaroids that frontman Jamie Stewart has been using for album art. Others have an Andy Warhol-like appeal, similar in essence to his famed Screen Test series. The live footage and these short films really would have been served better to be separated and appreciated on their own merits. Together, each renders the other void. Special features include the “Master Of The Bump” music video, a trailer and an interview with the filmmaker.

—Robert Ham

“I Do What I Want When I Want” from 2008’s Women As Lovers (download):