Muse have mastered the art of doing a pop-rock song but without losing out on musical inventiveness. It’s the holy-grail for most rock-bands. Those who achieved it fall in the upper echelons of rock music, such as Zeppelin and RHCP and Floyd and Queen and what have you.
Matt Bellamy continues on his lyrical tirade against an unnamed ‘they’, conspiracy theorist that he is. The album, like their others is full of themes of rebellion and rising against the fat cats in the seats of power. Sample “Uprising” to get a quintessential example of his paranoia. Also look out for the sexy bassline therein. Unfortunately, it seems only to be a passing interest without too much thought put into it. Thankfully, there is the occasional surprisingly good love song thrown in, such as “Undisclosed Desires”. That particular song has got a minimal dance like feel to it with some seriously meaty slap bass thrown into the chorus in good measure. It’s quite addictive to listen to and demonstrates Muse’s mastery of the pop-rock-without-compromising-musical-invention-paradigm. A must hear, if only to see the band’s range.
This dance theme is something that goes down largely to the vision of the band but in terms of feel, is down to drummer Dom Howard’s intimate understanding of the form. He makes it sound great!! Check out the aforementioned, of course, but don’t miss out the title track’s disco-16th beats and very, very apt fills accompanied by all-over-the-place-playing by bassist Chris Wolstenholme. I love this album already.
And then, and THEN, Muse decide to go all Queen on our asses. “United States of Eurasia” is so Queen I expect most people to mistake it for their return or something. Unfortunately the lyrics are off-puttingly earnest in the geo-political vein. And there are too many pianos and violins going on here. I mean, Mr.Bellamy does his best Chopin impression at the end of the track, but there is a part of me that wants this to happen while battle hardened riff-rockers in Origin of Symmetry soldier on somewhere. The only remnant of that is bassist Chris Wolstenholme’s ever-present distortion. Does he save the day? Unfortunately he has no chance, what with “Exogenesis”, but the “New Born” meets “Speed King” riffing on “Unnatural Selection” is compelling enough to hold my attention. Nice half-time instrumental/guitar solo/interlude section too.
I’m rooting for them doing it again and pulling the damn thing off
Next is the very catchy but expectedly bombastic MK Ultra, which I find is the most agreeable deployment of the synth-bass-guitar riffery so far in the album. Good shit, and lovely lush vocal harmonies (as always) on the album as well. Good job, Mr. Bellamy. Speaking of synth-bass, check out the totally unhinged “I Belong to You”, which is NOT rock but is amazing fun to listen to, with its jumpy pianos and synth bass, bloody clarinet and FRENCH LYRICS! Shit. And they pull it off!
By this time, I simply wasn’t ready for the bigness of “Exogenisis”, which has all the elements so far seen in the album, but turned up to 11. Pianos and orchestras and horns everywhere, revealing classical ambitions. Can they do this live? Maybe as a one off performance at Wembley? They should. It will be gobsmacking to watch the production. This track is quite unlike anything I’ve heard from a rock band before. It’s not the melody that gets you. It’s not the orchestra. It’s the ambition and balls needed to pull it off. And for now, I’d say they have. The Resistance is a great album, though I miss the headbanging riff rock, and even Bellamy’s falsetto and pitch-shifty-squealy guitar work. Thank god for bassist Chris Wolstenholme. He’s there to remind us we’re still dealing with a ROCK band.
I consistently got the feeling that Muse are dangerously close to producing something completely overwrought and unlistenable, disappearing up their own arses in unrealized rock-messiah-complex issues. And holy shit, starting as snotty little Radiohead impersonators, they have somehow pulled off something bigger in each and every bloody album, including this one, which has the huge 13 minute “Exogenisis: Symphony”. Somehow, I feel they have reached the limit of as big as it can get without making a complete hash of things.
Their next move will be crucial. Will they go all acoustic-folk? Or even bigger? My bet is that if they do the latter, they will mess it up big time. But you know what? I’m rooting for them doing this again and pulling the damn thing off. This sounds right.
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