REVIEWS | FEATURES | DEPARTMENTS | BOOMBOX | PODCAST | MISC
SEARCH:
splendid > reviews > 3/11/2004
Xiu Xiu
Xiu Xiu
Fabulous Muscles
5RC


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Bunny Gamer"

Buy me now
When Xiu Xiu's last album, A Promise, was released, they were pegged as being "not quite there yet". That might not seem like a big deal, or even that much of a compliment, but when you look back, many of today's most exciting and innovative bands were initially viewed in much the same light: Radiohead weathered a similar storm after the release of The Bends, Wilco got the nod post-Summerteeth, and the Flaming Lips found themselves trapped between critical nirvana and commercial failure circa Clouds Taste Metallic and Zaireeka. Just because a band isn't quite there yet doesn't mean they won't get to wherever "there" is, or that they won't eventually exceed everyone's expectations.

With Fabulous Muscles, the San Francisco-based outfit, captained by singer/songwriter Jamie Stewart, make the transition from barely fringe-worthy experimental noise gonks to streamlined goth-pop kingpins seem astoundingly easy. Though the group's muse used to dwell in the realm of fuzzy brown oval transference, they now trade in a world of startlingly bleak, matte-black liquid-crystal experimental pop perfection pitched somewhere between John Cage's frightening austerity and the bittersweet squall of Swell Maps. Art-pop doesn't get any more accessible than this.

It's not all sunshine sing-alongs and happy-clappy people, but a reservoir of mystifying melody winds its way through Fabulous Muscle's dark corridors. Twinkling tirade "I Luv the Valley OH!" sounds like the death of sanity, with Stewart reaching down into his bowels to extricate feelings of misery and dread. The synth/mellotron-soaked "Bunny Gamer" sounds like a secret from a drunken best friend after a long night on the rails, and New Order-banged coke-cocktail "Crank Heart" is hopelessly gloomy and irresistibly dancey in the same breath. Even the album's most recalcitrant moments -- "Little Panda McElroy (b)" and "Support Our Troops OH! (Black Angels OH!)" -- have a humanity that puts them at odds with avant-garde's suffocating asceticism.

The unsettling moments that have in many ways come to define Xiu Xiu recordings are present here, too. However, while those moments used to overwhelm listeners -- shocking them into submission, so to speak -- they are now masked by tunes of exceptional beauty. In the process, Stewart's inherent peculiarity becomes far more charming than disturbing.

Fabulous Muscles proclaims to the world that Xiu Xiu are finally "there" -- ready to enter the loving embrace of a million similarly disenfranchised skew-pop freaks.



REVIEWS:

12/31/2005:
Ladytron

Brian Cherney

Tomas Korber

UHF

The Rude Staircase

Dian Diaz

12/30/2005:
Helloween

PTI

The Crimes of Ambition

Karl Blau

Rosetta

Gary Noland

12/29/2005:
Tommy and The Terrors

Blacklisted

Bound Stems

Gary Noland

Carlo Actis Dato and Baldo Martinez

Quatuor Bozzoni

12/28/2005:
The Positions

Comet Gain

Breadfoot featuring Anna Phoebe

Secret Mommy

The Advantage

For a Decade of Sin: 11 Years of Bloodshot Records

12/27/2005:
The Slow Poisoner

Alan Sondheim & Ritual All 770

Davenport

Beaumont

Five Corners Jazz Quintet

Cameron McGill

Drunk With Joy

12/26/2005:
10 Ft. Ganja Plant

The Hospitals

Ross Beach

Big Star

The Goslings

Lair of the Minotaur

Koji Asano



Splendid looks great in Firefox. See for yourself.
Get Firefox!


FEATURES:
Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste probably didn't even know that he'd be the subject of Jennifer Kelly's final Splendid interview... but he is!



DEPARTMENTS:
That Damn List Thing
& - The World Beyond Your Stereo
Bookshelf
Pointless Questions
File Under
Pointless Questions
& - The World Beyond Your Stereo


ARCHIVE:
Read reviews from the last 30, 60, 90 or 120 days, or search our review archive.

It's back! Splendid's daily e-mail update will keep you up to date on our latest reviews and articles. Subscribe now!
Your e-mail address:    
REVIEWS | FEATURES | DEPARTMENTS | BOOMBOX | PODCAST | MISC
SEARCH:
All content ©1996 - 2011 Splendid WebMedia. Content may not be reproduced without the publisher's permission.