Fabulous Muscles

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Fabulous Muscles
Studio album by Xiu Xiu
Released February 17, 2004 (2004-02-17)
Genre Art rock, experimental, post-punk
Length 37:40
Label 5 Rue Christine
Producer Cory McCulloch
Xiu Xiu chronology
A Promise
Fabulous Muscles
Life and Live

Fabulous Muscles is the third album by Xiu Xiu, released on February 17, 2004 on 5 Rue Christine. The album marked a change in the band's sound, as the album was considered to be more accessible than Xiu Xiu's previous two albums. Fabulous Muscles has received mostly positive reviews.


Fabulous Muscles was Xiu Xiu's third album in two years. The album was recorded in Oakland and Seattle and was produced by band member Cory McCulloch.[1] The album's cover features frontman Jamie Stewart nuzzling a toy kitten.[2]

Several reviewers found Fabulous Muscles to have a more accessible sound than Xiu Xiu's previous albums.[2][3][4] On recording the album, Stewart said:

The song "Brian the Vampire" is based on a child Stewart encountered during his time as a preschool teacher in California. According to Stewart, "His whole family lived in one garage and his older brother...was molesting Brian at night while the whole family was sleeping in the room."[6] "Mike" is a tribute to Stewart's late father Michael Stewart, who committed suicide in 2002, while "Support Our Troops OH! (Black Angels OH!)" is about Stewart's view on soldiers serving in the Iraq war.[7]

Stewart told Pitchfork that the tone of the album reflected the events of his personal life, which were "incredibly, incredibly violent, incredibly jarring and difficult to take... and personally and politically extreme in black and white ways".[8] His next studio album, The Air Force, reflects his experience internalizing the trauma of that period.[8]

Stewart contributed the title track to a tribute CD, The Ash Gray Proclamation, for author Dennis Cooper. He said that he would not have been able to write a song like that without having read Cooper's books, since Cooper helped Stewart "to feel ... that it was possible to be more open" due to his "frankness".[8]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars [9]
Pitchfork Media (9.0/10) [3]
PopMatters (Favorable) [2]
Stylus Magazine (C) [10]
Tiny Mix Tapes 4/5 stars [4]
The Village Voice C[11]

Fabulous Muscles has received mostly positive reviews. On the review aggregate site Metacritic, the album has a score of 80 out of 100, indicating "Generally favorable reviews."[12] Critics were generally receptive to the album's more accessible sound.

Heather Phares of Allmusic wrote "Fabulous Muscles might be the best expression of Xiu Xiu's unrepentantly original music; even if the world that the band creates isn't necessarily one you'd want to visit all the time, it remains fascinating."[9] Pitchfork Media's Matt LeMay also praised the album, writing "Though there are many notable high points to Fabulous Muscles, its overwhelming consistency is what cements its place as Xiu Xiu's finest. The album does not contain a single hiccup or yawn-- no extraneous noise, no potentially offputting histrionics, no throwaways and no dull moments." The album also received a "Best New Music" designation in the review.[3]

Robert Christgau gave the album a C grade, writing "The musical parsimony, cultural insularity, moral certitude, and histrionic affectations of these lo-fi artier-than-thous promise indie ideologues whole lifetimes of egoistic irrelevance."[13] Stylus Magazine's Akiva Gottlieb also gave the album a C grade, writing "Obviously, Stewart has a penchant for self-examination—some of it brilliant and incisive—but his work is also obnoxiously self-indulgent."[10]

Fabulous Muscles has appeared on a few end of year lists. The Morning News named it the 7th best album of 2004.[14] Pitchfork Media ranked Fabulous Muscles #50 on their list of the top 50 albums of 2004.[15] In addition, the same website ranked the song "I Luv the Valley OH!" #176 on their list of the Top 500 Tracks of the 2000s, with reviewer Brian Howe writing "A great Xiu Xiu song is like someone actually hurting himself, right in front of you. This ["I Luv the Valley OH!"] isn't their most violent effort, but it's their most scouring; a place where mortar-round drums pound down on rolling bass and chiming guitars, unsubtly conveying the painful insight that some dreams have to be razed, not realized."[16] The album also placed 19th on Tiny Mix Tapes favorite albums of 2000-2009.

Brandon Stosuy of Pitchfork described the album as "brilliant" and a blend of "circus music and shattered death disco".[8]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Length
1. "Crank Heart" 3:19
2. "I Luv the Valley OH!" 2:59
3. "Bunny Gamer (b)" 2:40
4. "Little Panda McElroy (b)" 4:25
5. "Support Our Troops OH! (Black Angels OH!)" 4:46
6. "Fabulous Muscles (Mama Black Widow Version)" 4:10
7. "Brian the Vampire" 2:38
8. "Nieces Pieces (Boat Knife Version)" 3:33
9. "Clowne Towne" 3:50
10. "Mike" 5:13


The following people contributed to Fabulous Muscles:[17]

Xiu Xiu[edit]

  • Lauren Andrews - Synthesizer (2), Percussion (5)
  • Jherek Bischoff - Bass (1/4), Guitar (2/5), Bass Drums (2), Violin (3), Upright Bass (5), String Arrangements (5), Synthesizer (5), Trombone (8)
  • Cory McCulloch - Producer, Harmonium (5/8), Mandolin (1), Guitar (2), Bass Synthesizer (2)
  • Sam Mickens - Guitar (1/2), Synthesizer (2), Percussion (2), String Arrangements (5)
  • Jamie Stewart - Vocals, Guitar, Synthesizer (1/3/4/7/9/10), Beats (1/3/7), Bass (2), Percussion (9)

Additional personnel[edit]

  • John Golden - Mastering
  • Lorem Ipsum - Photography
  • Caralee McElroy - Photography
  • Gabriel Mindel - Electronics (5), Guitar (5), Synthesizer (5)
  • Sprout Guy - Viola (5/9), Violin (5/9)
  • Joe Stewart - Design
  • Peter Swanson - Drum Machine (5), Electronics (5), Synthesizer (5)


  1. ^ Xiu Xiu - Fabulous Muscles (CD, Album). Discogs. Retrieved 1 July 2011
  2. ^ a b c Begrand, Adrian. Xiu Xiu: Fabulous Muscles. Popmatters. 1 March 2004. Retrieved 1 July 2011.
  3. ^ a b c LeMay, Matt. Xiu Xiu: Fabulous Muscles | Album Reviews | Pitchfork. Pitchfork Media. 17 February 2004. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  4. ^ a b Xiu Xiu - Fabulous Muscles. Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved 1 July 2011
  5. ^ Joseph, Peter. I Can't Wait to Watch You Get Older: An Interview with Xiu Xiu. Popmatters. Retrieved 1 July 2011
  6. ^ http://www.neumu.net/datastream/2004/2004-00020/2004-00020_datastream.shtml
  7. ^ Goldberg, Michael. For Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart, the Personal is Political is Permissible for Creative License. 17 March 2004. Retrieved 1 July 2011
  8. ^ a b c d Stosuy, Brandon (April 9, 2006). "Xiu Xiu". Pitchfork Media. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved July 13, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Phares, Heather. Fabulous Muscles - Xiu Xiu. Allmusic. Retrieved 1 July 2011.
  10. ^ a b Gottlieb, Akiva. Xiu Xiu - Fabulous Muscles - Review. Stylus Magazine. 25 February 2004. Retrieved 1 July 2011
  11. ^ Christgau, Robert (November 30, 2004). "Consumer Guide: Mine Enemy the Turkey". The Village Voice. Retrieved December 13, 2016. 
  12. ^ Critic Reviews for Fabulous Muscles. Metacritic. Retrieved 1 July 2011
  13. ^ Christgau, Robert. Robert Christgau: CG: Xiu Xiu. Retrieved 1 July 2011.
  14. ^ Womack, Andrew. The Top 10 Albums of 2004. The Morning News. 20 December 2004. Retrieved 1 July 2011
  15. ^ Pitchfork Staff. Pitchfork: Staff Lists: Top 50 Albums of 2004. Pitchfork Media. 31 December 2004. Retrieved 1 July 2011.
  16. ^ Pitchfork Staff. The Top 500 Tracks of the 2000s: 200-101. 18 August 2009. Retrieved 1 July 2011.
  17. ^ Fabulous Muscles - Credits. Retrieved 1 July 2011

External links[edit]