“Do I look all right? ” Jamie Stewart begs repeatedly in a quivering, hushed voice on F.T.W., the chilling third song on Women As Lovers. After a once-through the San Fran experimental rock band’s sixth studio effort, I’d venture to answer Stewart with a resounding no. He, as usual, sounds like a man on the edge of checking into a white-walled care facility, but that shouldn’t be seen as a negative against Women As Lovers. I say that even though his cover of Under Pressure, featuring Michael Gira, defies logic – we don’t really need another interpretation. Black Keyboard’s delicate and nimble arrangements work fittingly under Stewart’s cracking voice and discomforting lyrics, while Caralee McElroy and Stewart sync impressively, considering the maniacal rhythms on You Are Pregnant, You Are Dead. Still, for as long as critics have insisted Xiu Xiu are destined for the mainstream, it’s doubtful Women As Lovers will take them there, assuming that’s even a place Stewart wants to go.
Xiu Xiu play Sneaky Dee’s March 17.