XIU XIU – Fabulous Muscles (2004)

Review by: Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan
Album assigned by: Ed Luo 

 

Fabulous Muscles might start off innocuously enough, with a bumbling 8-bit circus rhythm and a vague, softly spoken intro, but it doesn’t take long for things to ratchet up a gear and  the listener to find him or herself subject to the first opening barrage of histrionics and to experience the album’s prevailing mood of uncompromising psychic honesty. FM is a paen to emotional incontinence and tormented self-expression, a sort of musical approximation to the effects of primal scream therapy — or else you could also quite easily just dismiss it as one massive grown up tantrum set to precarious, ugly music. It’s supposed to sound prickly and erratic, and you’re supposed to feel like a voyeur for listening into something that sounds so vulnerable, so intimate: all of it pouring out straight from the Xiu Xiu dude’s tortured little soul, pure and unmediated; and uncompromising too, refusing to make concessions to the  more conventional listener’s conventional musical expectations. But I couldn’t quite bring myself to buy into all that.

Xiu Xiu have been called noise, except that I always feel that with a noise artist like Merzbow the idea is to effect a kind of pure self effacement, to privilege sound above everything, whereas FM, is about employing harsh, dissonant music and awkward, distressed vocals, as a means primarily of manifesting an overwhelming inner turmoil. Interestingly enough Xiu Xiu seem to be at their most effective when they write actual songs. A case in point is ‘I love the valley OH’, which is by far my highlight of the album. It’s a song which I found myself returning to over and over again, both because it has a great hook and because of its emotional resonance. In the end though the problem with FM is that unless you have one of two extreme reactions to FM — either that of rejecting it straight off the bat because it makes you feel too queasy, or that of feeling yourself completely in tune with Xiu Xiu, a kindred at the level of your twitchy jangling nerves — then it makes you feel as if you’re missing out on something. Nevertheless it’s a worthy enough attempt. (7/10)
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Author: tomymostalas

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