"Buzz Saw," this album's opening song, has a title that befits the entire thing. In what is otherwise a soft and embraceable ballad of piano and voice, a totally left-field burp of synth squelch suddenly cuts across the song, just like a buzz saw would. This happens more often than not on The Air Force. It leaves a strange taste in your mouth, and makes clear that acoustic songsmithery and blippy-bloopy electronic music are intersecting like never before. Shit, a recent e-mail from the Kill Rock Stars/5RC mailing list expressed the labels' interest in demo tapes featuring that exact combination. What used to be two genres at entirely different ends of the record store are converging, and probably confusing those behind the counter with questions about where to file these curiosities. Jamie Stewart, Xiu Xiu's principal songwriter, instrumentalist and vocalist, definitely overdoes it a little. Songs such as "The Fox and the Rabbit" and "Hello from Eau Claire" are at the core well-crafted and melodic, almost to the point of genuine amazement. But what seems to block that amazement is the overlayering of incongruent synthesizers and electronic percussion. Still, it's quite possible that Xiu Xiu is a trailblazer in this shifty new genre, and that in a few years a record like The Air Force will hardly cause consternation. Instead, it may be considered the modern equivalent of Aerosmith busting down the wall to Run-DMC's practice space in the video for "Walk This Way."
Ben Blackwell writes about music for Metro Times . Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.