By Reed Fischer
By Anna Gulbrandsen
By Jeff Gage
By Stacy Schwartz
By Natalie Gallagher
By Erik Thompson
By Jeff Gage
By Loren Green
If you land in a combat zone, fuck shit up, then go home. Or so the art of war goes on Xiu Xiu's "Support Our Troops Oh! (Black Angels Oh!)," which crosses the Charlie-dodging tropics of Conrad's Heart of Darkness (Apocalypse Now edition) with the cardiac-arresting screeches of Père Ubu's epochal single of the same name. Accompanied by prose-poem lyrics from frontman Jamie Stewart ("You're a jock who was too stupid and too greedy," "Why should I care if you get killed?"), "Support Our Troops Oh!" is an abysmal song. Should Roger Ailes ever hear it (or of it, more accurately), O'Reilly and Co. would throw a patriotic fit, wrapping themselves in both Old Glory and Natalie Maines's rat tail.
This is exactly what Xiu Xiu--the world's biggest drama queens--want. Take their cover of New Order's "Ceremony" (from 2002's Chapel of the Chimes): Instead of summoning heartsick ennui, Stewart ups the Oscar cachet by shrieking each syllable with a tapioca-tongued delivery (think Rocky's Aaaaadriannnnnnnnn!). And on "Ian Curtis Wishlist" (from last year's A Promise), Stewart re-enacts Curtis's suicide with Southern debutante sighs and squeals.
By many accounts, Xiu Xiu's hysterical performances and arrangements result from the extraordinarily cursed lives they've spent dealing with suicide, molestation, and violence; Fabulous Muscles deals extensively with each issue to the point of exhaustion. Which makes the nonbiographical absurdism of the title track, the album's best song, somehow refreshing: "Cremate me after you cum on my lips/Honey boy place my ashes in a vase/Beneath your workout bench," Stewart warbles over an acoustic, major-chord progression. Still, there's so much emphasis on real-life catharsis throughout the album that it seems like Stewart and Co are using their difficult pasts to safeguard the band from criticism. "Fabulous Muscles was written on the heels of huge, huge upheveals [sic] and violent personal changes," a press release defends. By stressing their autobiographies more than their music, Xiu Xiu may lose fans who simply want a good record, not a memoir.
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