Since early 2006, the one man phenomenon muscles has been making some serious noise both locally and internationally. His sound built around keyboards and korg synths is packed full of extraordinary party anthems, explosive vocal harmonies, rigid techno, lo-fi house and soft trance synths.'guns babes lemonade' is full of catchy dance anthems, of particular note the track 'ice cream'. 'ice cream' appeared on high rotation for four months on triple j and was the #2 most requested track, giving you further proof that he is here to make his mark on the people of the world.
Guns Babes Lemonade
"Hey Muscles/ I love you/ I want to have your baby." That's how the last track on this record goes, and there's some chance that by the time you get there, you'll be starting to feel the same way. Figuratively speaking, obviously.
One of my favorite old stories about rave-era England is the one where the local toughs-- skinheads, soccer hooligans-- would suddenly appear at parties, loved up on ecstasy and wanting to give everyone a hug. Few of us were there for that, of course, but it's something you can actually hear in the music of that time, which developed pockets of dude-friendliness: more bone-headed energy, more stadium chanting, more everyday-guy stuff. This happens whenever more people start going to parties and dancing, and there's no reason it should always be a bad thing-- some guys somewhere will skirt away from the usual glamour and sexuality of dance music, using their synths to get across rock-bred stuff like pop hooks, party shouting, and songs about girls.
Muscles doesn't sound like a bonehead or a tough guy-- not in the least-- and he's definitely not trying to do anything to dance music. But he's part of a long line of that sort of thing, the same one that includes New Order, the Streets, "Born Slippy", the "hooligan house" of Audio Bullys, or his more-stylish fellow Australians in Cut Copy. That lack of cool, in fact, is important here. Muscles' tracks start off as rough-and-ready bedroom-laptop electro-pop, the sort of thing you might hear at any loft party full of dudes in neon sweatshirts-- but then these tracks drop into huge emotional gestures, from the wet, sentimental synths of trance to the classic buoyancy of house piano rhythms. (It's the opposite of electroclash-- earnest and warm instead of arch and icy.) Neither does he sound like a guy who's trying to be clever, cool, serious, or arty, though he pulls off all four. Mostly, he just sounds like a guy who is PSYCHED, like some kind of dancefloor Andrew W.K. The refrain from the single, "Sweaty": "My hand slipped into your hand! And it was awesome! And you were special!" Elsewhere, he gets all boyishly emo: A bad run-in with an indie girl leaves him shouting, "Drive a one-inch badge pin through my heart!" repeatedly. Very repeatedly.
In other words, Muscles has grabbed the rudiments of party music and used them to make a very good shouty-emotional-guy-in-a-bedroom record, of the sort that would otherwise get called totally indie.
Those shouts, in fact, are the core of this record, and they give it an emotional range that's not really aimed at floor-filling. The grainy, rave-loving synth programming is pushed into the background by layers and layers of always-harmonized singing, different chants bouncing off of one another in countless directions. And while, over the first few listens, those constant gang-chant harmonies can seem maddeningly samey, they quickly differentiate themselves exactly enough for a 43-minute record-- sometimes they're ecstatic, sometimes nostalgic, sometimes dark; a few actually bear a strange kinship with TV on the Radio. (See: "Lauren from Glebe" and "Marshmallow".) And when you imagine Muscles singing them in the home studio, you don't just imagine his fist in the air: You imagine him dripping with sweat and punching holes in the ceiling, with all the ridiculous energy of that kid in the light-saber video.
You also get a pretty charming tour of Muscles's world. The bubbly "My Friend Richard" tackles party management, and lets on a guyish annoyance with VIP lines: "These people don't care about your health! These people make you stand out in the cold! If Muscles has a party, everybody is invited! You tell me that you're coming, and you leave your house early!" On "Ice Cream", he's coping with threats of violence, and making an anthemic, sentimental hook out of "Ice Cream/ Is going to save the day." The biggest bloody heart on his sleeve comes with "One Inch Badge Pin", sparked by the aforementioned girl from the Melbourne independent music community, which Muscles is awesome enough to refer to-- without too much irony-- as "the Melbourne independent music community."
And he really is pretty awesome-- totally enthusiastic, full of good humor and good jokes, endearingly emotional, and generous with hooks. He's good company. A lot of the people who try to inject personal, pop-vocal vibes into this sort of music wind up feeling like they're trying too hard-- attempting to be cool or stylish, or just navigating the distance between dance music and boyish pop in a way that's too self-conscious, too calculated, too audible; you wind up wishing they'd just make proper electronic music and leave the rest alone. Muscles blows past that: He makes party tracks and pours his voice all over them in a way that's unembarrassed, almost puppyish, and not at all hard to like.
-Nitsuh Abebe, November 07, 2007