Xiu Xiu is one of those rare bands that seemingly makes albums without any regards to what people expect and/or want from them. Fabulous Muscles is about the closest to date that they've gotten to a pop record, and this years La Forêt seemed to find Jamie Stewart recoiling from the large amount of positive press that the previous album got by delving into even more extreme quiet and noise.
Life And Live isn't exactly a new album from Xiu Xiu, instead it's a collection of live recordings (mostly stripped-down) made by Devendra Banhart when the two were on tour together. The result is something that is musically completely different than the studio recordings from the group, but still has all the confrontational, emotional, and raw edges that you would expect. In some ways, the release feels like a continuation of the limited Fag Patrol release that came out, but in addition to acoustic tracks, Life And Live also contains some rather spirited performances from Stewart (and bandmates)
The long release actually contains multiple versions of a couple tracks, including the opener "20,000 Deaths For Eidelyn Gonzales, 20,000 Deaths For Jamie Peterson." Like "I Broke Up" (the other track that is featured in two different versions on the release), the two different versions provide unique glimpses into the emotional state of Stewart at the time of the performance, as both tracks range a great deal in terms of vocal inflections and how much force he puts into playing his instrument.
There are only a couple tracks on the release that feature instrumentation more than a single piece and vocals, including the clanging "Jennifer Lopez," and the electric guitar and accordion of "Dr. Troll." Both of the tracks stand up just fine (even though neither of them are recorded with any high fidelity), but ultimately it all comes down to Stewart and his personal performances on the release. In that respect, it's a great document of the variety that one gets when listening to the group, from the sad, introspective "Brooklyn Dodgers" to the intense, seething "Sad Pony Guerrilla Girl" (on which Stewart does some almost possessed-sounding vocals). In that respect, the album succeeds greatly, even though it takes way more than one listen for it to sink in properly. Uncompromising and raw at times, Life And Live is just what you'd expect from Xiu Xiu.