I spent more than an hour on Thursday listening to the lithe young hotties of XXX Audio graphically describe four of the many ways they screw themselves. If you're easily offended, please do read on and savor every (column) inch of detail:
1. By recklessly alternating their moniker between XXX Audio and Triple X Audio, the shoegazer-punk quartet consistently runs the risk of retailers slotting their CDs inconsistently and confusing potential fans.
2. One could only recently Google the damn name without Vin Diesel clogging one's browser—much less a litany of men who look like Vin Diesel XXXing with a litany of women who don't.
3. Second bands + day jobs + housing and familial commitments = no tour.
4. Disappointed that time constraints forced me to interview XXX during a low-key lunch at Elysian Brewing Co. rather than a twilight-hours dive bar booze binge, burly drummer Lee Taylor laments, "You get 15 or 16 drinks in us, and we'll be a lot more interesting. We'll tell you our deepest secrets, who we can't stand, everything."
Truth in advertising time-out. If you consider that "lurid" laundry list and the fact that the band blends upbeat Kim Deal–sanctioned power-pop with Swervedriver's passages of swarming-locust guitar-drone dissonance, we're more accurately dealing with PG-13-for-Mild-Language-and-Some-Sensuality Audio. But, as corroborated by your votes prior to this year's Seattle Weekly Music Awards Showcase, PG-13 sells a buttload of tickets, especially in the summertime. Good thing XXX Audio come off like an infectious summer-hummer melody, albeit contorted and corrupted through an irreparably fractured prism. It all starts with founder/frontwoman Denise Maupin, who had to quit perennial Built to Spill openers the Delusions three times before braving to fashion an outlet for her own bittersweet riots.
"The songs start out happy and end up . . . less happy," Taylor explains. "She comes in with these little indie-pop songs . . . "
" . . . and we make a mess out of them," finishes guitarist/ co-vocalist Brian Burnside.
Luckily, these messes continue to claw their way out of Maupin's closet and land on tape, even though it took two years after XXX's 2001 inception for the band to unload what Burnside calls their "very busy and very ranting" debut, Like Pumping Gas on Fire. Their just-released follow-up EP, Wreckage and Reclamation (like Pumping, on Mattress Actress Music), is an eye-opening—and -gouging—improvement, weighted with steamroller bass lines courtesy of newcomer Dan Infecto. The five tracks tread confidently between call-to-arms radio rock ("The Kicks," "Measure of Regret") and haunted shipwreck dirges ("Fingers Crossed").
It's the sort of intricately crafted Molotov that can really only do damage with years of experience and experimentation. Maupin was cranking out "buttrock punk songs" in her own riot-grrrl outfit for years ("Maybe it was because I didn't know how to write," she says) before falling for college-rock mainstays like Archers of Loaf and Throwing Muses. She bemoans how easily critics have nailed her influences in early XXX press, at least compared to Burnside, whose playing she smartly dubs a mash-up of Jane's Addiction, the Cult, Sonic Youth, and At the Drive-In (the latter comparison draws a scowl from the guitarist). Maupin's in the middle of conceding admiration for Veruca Salt when Taylor interrupts.
"I'd just love to see the split screen [of what we were listening to] in that era," he laughs. "You're over there, and Brian and I are over here, with, like, Ministry."
Al Jourgensen and Kristen Hersh trading the mike? Now that qualifies as obscene. It doesn't remotely qualify as XXX, nor XXX Audio. Thank God.