The first time I heard of Muse is when I randomly searched for ‘distorted bass’ in YouTube. I know. Nerdy. Anyway, that way I stumbled upon Chris Wolstenholme and a live recording of ‘Bliss’. I was so struck by the band’s dramatic sound that I was compelled to YouTube them more and more. All of that kinda culminated into my exploring their discography. And this album.
This is Muse’s first album. They were knocked off as Radiohead impersonators, initially. With all due respect to Radiohead: Muse, you rock. Radiohead, you don’t. Muse have a certain theatrical grandiosity that recalls the heights of pomp and circumstance topped (indeed, pioneered) only by Queen, Peter Gabriel, Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson. Speaking of the last two, Matthew Bellamy the guitar player is actually dominated by Matthew Bellamy the keyboardist in this album. And a not too shabby one at that. Even so, I find the tendency to arpeggiate every chord change and its mother a bit annoying.
Bellamy’s signature singing style sure is unique, but I find it annoying. As an aesthetic, it works for a few songs per album, but when a guy sounds like he is singing tragically in his death bed all the time, it’s not something I can appreciate 24/7. But yes, the high pitched gasps and yelps do have character.
Muse’s sound is big. BIG. It’s a four layer sandwich consisting of really full sounding bass, big guitars and heavy rock drums and layered keyboards that leaves not an inch of infinity free of all consuming pompous and pretentious sound.
I love it.
Of course, the danger of being OTT is always there. Indeed, Muse have arguably popped their ‘shameless self indulgence’ cherry with the latest album, which has the self important title ‘The Resistance’ full of self importantly long tracks (15 minutes), self importantly titled ‘Exogenisis: Symphony’. But this album doesn’t betray many of those OTT fantasies. It’s still big sounding, but very much Radiohead inspired with compact songs never exceeding 5 minutes. The verses in ‘Cave’ are probably the most Radioheady sounding things in this album. The chorus displays Muse’s characteristic use of Western Classical sounding chord progressions. It’s probably the best song in this album, with Chris Wolstenholme laying down a great (distorted, as always) bassline.
At this point, I do think I’ve been glossing over the shitty stuff. Apart from the songs that I have mentioned, the rest are mostly average songs done by a band with character. Kinda like an average student who writes his exams only in Swahili. Or something. But on each one of them, you will see flashes or brilliance. Like the Spanish sounding chord changes in ‘Uno’ and the chorus of ‘Sober’.
If you think that I’m just being biased, then I wouldn’t blame you. I’m ever so slightly taken by ‘Bliss’ and ‘Plug in Baby’ which they released later, that I have been a little unbalanced here. To balance it out, I’ll say that while I have given Muse the benefit of the doubt here, this doesn’t generally sound right.
– El Bajista
Check out the review of the best MUSE album yet, HERE.
More ALTERNATIVE ROCK? Really? Go HERE.