Xiu Xiu Fabulous Muscles

Xiu Xiu are getting gayer and gayer. First of all, Fabulous Muscles. Second of all, hearts on the disc and loving a plush kitty on the cover. Thirdly, "cremate me after you cum on my lips, honey boy place my ashes in a vase, beneath your workout bench.” And lastly, this is — gasp — basically a pop record. Still, Xiu Xiu are as disturbing as ever, a quality that is amplified by how enjoyable it is. While Jamie Stewart sings, "your true self has become weak, alone and annoying, a true ridiculous dumb ass,” the upbeat instrumental meanderings force you to nod along with a swelling heart and a happy grin. It’s just sick. And the lyrics are all necessary, because without the sort of anguish put into tracks like the gruesome spoken word, "Support Our Troops OH!,” not-really counterpart to "I Luv the Valley OH!,” the latter would just seem like a too-normal (albeit, doused in agony) Interpol-ing travesty. And the diversity works. Danceable synth pop lays beside frightening bells and whistles lays beside the delicate avant-folk of the excellent title track. So, although not as inspiring and unconventional as past work, Fabulous Muscles is still a tiny fountain of creativity that can be eerily adored by ultra-obscurists and moderates alike. (5RC)