Xiu Xiu: Fabulous Muscles

16 Dec

Xiu Xiu’s Fabulous Muscles is very accessible for noise pop and very powerful for all that. Painfully intense and brutally personal, this album gets under your skin and worms around within you.

I can’t discuss Fabulous Muscles without talking about “I Luv The Valley OH!”, Jamie Stewart’s tale of family and suicide. The song holds its pretense of straight pop almost throughout, and yet cuts you with its lyrics and delivery. The one break is in the titular scream, which shocks in the truth of its release.

That song is the essence of the entire album, where the excellent synth-pop of Crank Heart or Brian the Vampire appear to cover disturbing tales of broken childhoods and broken people, but instead form a structure that reinforces the destructiveness of his lyrics. This is a hard album to listen to, and intentionally so. Support Our Troops OH! has Stewart graphically describe the killing of a young girl by a US soldier while throwing pure noise at the listener. Nieces Pieces holds the feeling of inevitability that a failing family creates.

That is a large part of what makes this album so strong. The characters of each of the songs are clearly defined, but never with standard words. The striking part of Bunny Gamer is not the desire for someone you can never have, but how easily the rejection is given and taken. Little Panda McElroy is hesitantly, delicately beautiful noise that helps the story of maybe being able to break the ugliness of yourself this time. Clowne Towne hits you hard with its lyrics, but is affectionate in how it tears you down.

This is an album that actually explores what goes into depression rather than dismissing it as sadness. It is about actual pain rather than the ideas around it. It is deeply uncomfortable to listen to and undoubtedly a masterpiece for all that.


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