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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Xiu Xiu
Fabulous Muscles
5 Rue Christine

Rating: 9/10 ?


April 14, 2004
I remember the day that Fabulous Muscles arrived in the mailbox, many months ago, as I sat trying to remember what he/they sounded like. For some reason I had in my head that first song from the Kind of Like Spitting album with the orange cover, yet I distinctly recalled having appreciated both Chapel of the Chimes and A Promise. Bewildered as much by my failure to place Xiu Xiu in my mental jukebox as I was by Fabulous Muscles' slightly disturbing cover artwork depicting XX mindbank Jamie Stewart snuggling with a stuffed kitten, I tossed the album on as soon as rolled into the crib that afternoon. For nearly a full minute (in fact, 52 seconds) I remained bewildered as "Crank Heart" wound up through my headphones. I distinctly remembered Xiu Xiu not being another one of those artistically limited video game glitch pop outfits, and it was like a shower of warm strawberry yogurt when Stewart hesitated his programmed flat beat for a moment before ripping Fabulous Muscles' opener in half with droned out synthesizers and a dark, airy breath gasping for passion with every word. The track does well to establish the quirks and qualities of the person who is in charge, and the following "I Luv the Valley" with its tweaked out tirade (complete with LA LA LA LA LA LA LA) leaves no doubt that it is Jamie Stewart's warped table that our ears are sitting at.

Although Fabulous Muscles is a huge leap from the snotty art brat concepts of Chapel of the Chimes, it isn't entirely without its inner snotty art brat. "Little Panda McElroy (b)" is stretched thin with white noise saturating Stewart's love-letter lyrical tribute to a girl named McElroy who, from the sounds of it ("I can stop lying/ I can stop punching my own face/ I can stop stealing money/ I can stop hating my own heart/ I can do it/ because of you"), saved his life. It isn't much of a composition from the exterior, but it's still touching if you follow the lyrics. I guess that's something.

Unfortunately for rockers, the personal introspective noise poem of "McElroy" is followed up by the then-timely (and perhaps now even more appropriate) political criticism of "Support Our Troops OH! (Black Angels OH!" - a track which is easily the most pointed and impressive direct confrontation with the politics of listeners that I've heard any artist make this year. Before closing with "Why should I care if you get killed," Stewart asks, over a backdrop of clattery noise: 

"Did you know that you were going to shoot off the top of a four-year-old girl's head and look across her car seat down into her skull and see into her throat? And did you know that her dad would say to you 'Please, Sir, can I take her body home?' Oh, wait, you totally did know that that would happen, because you're a jock who's too stupid and too greedy and too unmotivated to do anything else but still be the biggest and still do what other people tell you to do."

But wait, don't fret rockers. There are hits for you here as well. The album's second track, "Bunny Gamer," is perhaps the best (only?) no-mess amalgamation of dark, gothic overtones, glitchy programming, and stormy quasi-queer temper isolationism that I've ever heard. Think of Pretty Hate Machine-era Reznor meeting the coke-snorting short-haired sidekick to Gael García Bernal's character in the new Pedro Almodóvar film Bad Education, updated for a post-Postal Service response. There's also the totally 80's dance club goth hit "Brian the Vampire" with its shrill synth and squealing guitar, the sound experimentalism of "Clowne Towne," and the album's title track is a reversion to whispery seizure poetry that Jeff Mangum would be proud of.

All in all, if you never knew what to think of Xiu Xiu you still won't after hearing Fabulous Muscles. I didn't, and I still don't. But I have a pretty concrete idea of what Jamie Stewart's sound - for lack of a better term - is. If you gave up on Joan of Arc but would still like to have a favorite fascinating/disastrous/brilliant/messy art rock noise band in your collection, I recommend Xiu Xiu. If you just wanna dance, whatever.

Reviewed by Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.

See other reviews by Eric J Herboth

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