A picture on Rasputina's home page shows frontwoman Melora Creager hunched intently over her cello, looking as if she's struggling through some highbrow symphony. The caption over her head reads, "She is rocking. Can you tell?" If your first answer is no, you're being fooled by her demure good looks. Rasputina channels enough electricity through its triple-cello arrangements to challenge the supremacy of any guitar attack, and Creager's prankishly morbid lyrics are as subversive as anything in rock music.
But why shouldn't that be the case? Before forming Rasputina (cheekily subtitled "The Ladies' Cello Society"), Creager was Nirvana's touring cellist, and her current collaborators include Chris Vrenna (of Nine Inch Nails and Tweaker) and the dark prince of schlock rock himself, Marilyn Manson. Instead of covering, say, Beethoven, the band favors Melanie and Belle and Sebastian. Creager et al have always had an obsessive, puzzling fetish for historical curiosities, with song titles such as "Transylvanian Concubine" and a penchant for dressing in antique lingerie onstage, but their new album, Cabin Fever!, is arguably their most modern-sounding yet, with more personal lyrics from Creager and pop songs that shine like black leather. Updating chamber music for the post-Garbage age, Rasputina is the most entertaining musical anachronism since the Squirrel Nut Zippers.