CD Review

The world may be not be ready for Muscles, but here he comes. Signed to global hit factory Modular, the Aussie cult hero lets loose on his memorably titled debut album, singing great big odes to ice cream, marshmallows and women over throbbing, glittery, trance-damaged techno-pop. At first, it feels like a joke, what with the earnest lyrics and overblown production, but this dude is dead serious. He wears his heart on his sleeve, refers to himself in the third person, peppers every song with at least one rollercoaster-worthy "whoo!" and comes off like a madcap android.

Muscles' legend has been growing at home and on the Internet for some time, on the strength of his live sets and especially the singles "Ice Cream" and "One Inch Badge Pin." They're still the best place to start, a one-two punch of delirious fun that's both affecting and absurd. When Muscles wraps his hoarse croak around an outsized refrain such as "Ice cream will save the day" or "Drive a one inch badge pin though my heart," it's got the force of a DayGlo 18-wheeler. On "Sweaty," he cries, "Peace love ecstasy," and spells out his latest moment of rapture: "My hand slipped into your hand/And it was awesome/And it was special."

That his songs are so fresh and zippy will only endear you to his silly persona, as long as you don't give up early on. Muscles embraces the simple wonder of pop while pushing the envelope musically, so that candy-coated thumpfests become lush, dense playgrounds in which to go happily nuts. Even people who hate electronic music could be won over by Guns Babes Lemonade. Nothing on this record should work, but somehow it emerges as a late contender for the year's best, and weirdest, debut.

Muscles performs at the Busywork Halloween party with DJs Mike B, Chris White, URB and others at Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0600; Wed., 9 p.m. $10.


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