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March 7, 2008

Candy apple gay

Bob Mould and Xiu Xiu release new music

March will be a good month for queer indie rock fans, bookended by two iconic acts in concerts.

Bob Mould, touring in support of his February 5 release District Line, will hit the Grog Shop in Cleveland on March 8. At the end of the month, Xiu Xiu return to Ohio, supporting their latest album Women as Lovers with a March 28 show at Skully’s in Columbus and March 29 at Southgate House in Newport, Kentucky.

Mould, who first garnered attention in the seminal post-punk band Hüsker Dü in the 1980s, continues his 25-year streak of making engaging, thoughtful music. After being a mainstay in the Minneapolis music scene that also produced the Replacements, he moved first to New York City, and now lives in Washington, D.C., leading what he describes as an insulated life as a gay man in a ten-block by two-block area of the capital, working out of a studio in his home.

While it would seem that living almost entirely in this comfort zone would cause his music to stagnate, it seems to have done the exact opposite.

He now also DJs, which led to him incorporating some synthesizer into his latest album. However, “Shelter Me,” a synth-heavy tune that makes use of some questionably stereotypical effects, is far from a dance track. It’s a modern-rock, alternative track that blends guitar and electronic in one striking package.

Mould, whose most recent interview in Spin provided fascinating insights into his life, came out in 1994 after the music magazine sent queer author Dennis Cooper to speak to him bearing an ultimatum: Come out in an interview, or they would out him.

That added an even greater depth in hindsight to Hüsker Dü’s music, since both Mould and drummer Grant Hart were gay, although the general public didn’t know it.

By the time he came out, the band was seven years gone, but he was in the middle of releasing albums both as a solo artist and as part of his poppier band Sugar.

One thing that has been constant in his life is change, and that applies also to his voice. There are points on District Line where his voice is almost unrecognizable from the Bob Mould of old, the one who sang “See a Little Light.” At other points, that other Mould comes through, albeit a little rougher, a little more gravelly.

The songs on the album also run the gamut, from sounding almost like a Billy Bragg folk-ballad on “Walls in Time” to the aforementioned synth-wave of “Shelter Me.”

Mould plays a March 8 show with opening act Haluo at the Grog Shop, 2785 Euclid Heights Boulevard at Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights. The show starts at 9 pm and tickets are $15 in advance, $16 at the door. For more information, call 216-3215588 or go to

Meanwhile, Xiu Xiu, the band to whom art-school students across the globe cut themselves, continue creating the dark, despairing, hopeful and hopeless indie music that has become their hallmark.

Bisexual frontman Jamie Stewart and his cousin Caralee McElroy, along with bandmates Ches Smith and Devin Hoff, slam audiences’ ears with another well-crafted album in Women as Lovers.

The jangling collision of instrumentations heard throughout Women as Lovers, combined with the varied tones of Stewart and McElroy’s voices provides an ever-changing panoply of sound. Within a single song, there might be a jazzy saxophone, a metallic clashing, a wispy-voiced Stewart and an angelic McElroy, joined with crunchy guitars and unrelenting drums.

At other times, Stewart will alternate between enraged shouting into the microphone and an almost swooning serenade, interspersed with a demonic organ, driving guitar lines and crashing drums.

Xiu Xiu take on the political as well as the personal in this album, with tracks like “Guantanamo Canto” bemoaning those whose humanity is traded for our safety.

“No Friend Oh!” and “White Nerd” are almost accessible to mainstream listeners, although not particularly happy. A little angry, a bit depressed, as is almost always the case with Xiu Xiu, but nowhere near happy. However, the instrumentation and form of the songs are within spitting distance of what might get airplay on an alternative station.

As it is, however, those songs will probably still only be played on college radio, for the most part.

However, the real highlight of the album is their cover of the Queen/David Bowie duet “Under Pressure,” with Michael Gira of the Swans joining the band to provide the Bowie portion of the song. It’s a magnificent cover, keeping the intensity of the original while adding its own levels of fevered delirium.

Xiu Xiu play Skully’s Music Diner, 1151 North High Street in Columbus, on Friday, March 28. Thao Nguyen and El Jesus de Magico will open. More information is available at or by calling 614-2918856.

The following night, they hit suburban Cincinnati with their show at Southgate House, 24 East Third St, Newport, Kentucky. They are again joined by Thao Nguyen, this time also by Why? Doors are at 9 pm, and tickets are $10. For more information, call 859-4312201 or go to




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