Sound — 8
The years 2007 to 2009 were pretty long and hard. For me, at least; I graduated from High school, went to college, and worked on a portfolio to get into Dundee Art College. So when Chinese Democracy, Dig Out Your Soul, and Duffy arrived, I was fairly disappointed. But, although I probably stand alone, I can genuinely say I was impressed by Muse's The Resistance. And I'm a fussy bugger. I understand all the criticism completely. The epic symphony is perhaps a bit too ambitious. And, like other bands like Editors, Kings of Leon and The Killers, they have joined the more refined bandwagon of synthesisers and pulsing bass and drum beats; but is it necessarily a bad thing? From what I remember pre-2000 (,and that's relatively little,) Muse were a raw, gritty band, full of soul and charm. Matt Bellamy would wail along to his choppy guitar skills, and his two best mates from High school would make sure he got through the gigs and didn't upset his mother too much, which is important when you're young. And that's how I'll always remember them. But somewhere between Absolution and Blackholes and Revelations, they lost themselves (as I'm sure many of us did). They moved on from entertaining Mushroom and A & E record labels, and started satisfying the ever growing public thirst for improvisation. And so Muse were reborn as contemporary artists, and moved into the dangerous playing fields of Mercury and Brit Awards. But he's where I ask the question: would you really have it any other way? Many a band has fallen into the pit trap of modern music; Coldplay tried and failed to reignite their previously unique sound, and Keane redid Under the Iron Sea oh, sorry, released Perfect Symmetry. C'mon, they were pretty much the same. And that's where Muse went right. The Resistance is completely different in style, still maintaining the same enthusiasm and professionalism, by not being under the constraints of traditional record labels. It took ages to come out, but it was three years between Absolution and Blackholes as well, broken up by the release of their B-side album Hullabaloo, so I don't know why people complained so much. I'll be honest, it took a couple of intense run-throughs on iTunes DJ before I got into it, but once I did, I was hooked. I'm not usually as obsessed by albums so much, I'm fairly fickle and jump between bands. There's just something so natural about The Resistance, it feeds your inner rebel, and ignites that space left by three years of nonsense from the charts. It begins as Muse always does, with a charged piece which sets the tone for the rest of the album. Uprising is one of their more commercial songs, after Starlight, and performs with a kind of jumped up vibe similar to Goldfrapp; but stick with me; trust me I'm an art student, I won't lie. The true opening song for me is Resistance, a poignant tribute to the book 1984 by George Orwell. Muse have always favoured the gripping, angst-filled pursuits of love; look at Invincible for goodness sake. But instead of filling the piece with daft lyrics and over exaggerated riffs, I feel Muse have gone for a more straightforward approach, and not overdone the song. The rhythm is exciting and emotional, whilst not tripping face first into Emo-pop, and focusing on the tragedy of the story. The song bears weight, and clarity, in the touchy subject of government censorship. A truly successful song in my opinion.
Lyrics — 8
To be fair, the success of Undisclosed Desires and Guiding Light is dubious. I can see exactly what Muse were aiming for: simple songs, influenced by contemporary music. They were most likely to be tongue-in-cheek, and for a bit of fun. But I can't help feel that they've taken themselves a bit too seriously. Undisclosed Desires is a good song but just good. Centred around an R&B setting, Muse wonders out of the ghetto, into the train station. Still very much Muse, the first time you listen to it, it fills you with a sense of dread; after I heard Muse where producing an album based off of Map of the Problematique, I though it would be a whole album of Undisclosed Desires, so I'm fairly relieved. It maintains Muses' originality, but doesn't quite satisfy their latest endeavour. Guiding Light is a more preferable choice of the two here. For me, it's a nice song. Very much influenced by the Prog-rock genre, it would've been a smash in 1981. Dom Howard is probably the hero here, balancing the songs equilibrium between progressive androck. To be honest, it gently entertains the camp child within me, and that's all I need from time to time. The back end of the album is significantly more substantial, and revives and works on songs from Muses' repertoire, such as Micro Cuts and The Small Print. Unnatural Selection and MK Ultra are for the adolescent in all of us, that timid little sod who started breaking out at twelve, and ended up sordid and twisted by fifteen. Long live Radiohead! Unnatural Selection returns to Bellamy's obsession with the organ: an endearing, stark, dramatic instrument; I'm sure anyone who's been to Mass will tell you it's scary to be told you're going to Hell by a man on a piano the size of a house. Unnatural Selection delves into that feeling, and plays on it, literally. The song bounds through verse after verse of astonishing bass riffs, accompanied by Bellamy fiddling away enthusiastically. Much of this album is a labour of love, and I'm sure Muse loved this song. The interlude in the middle reminds me of the interlude in Fillip, and other songs where Bellamy's epic voice dominates and goes out of it's way to impress. MK Ultra is ecstatic at being released into the world. It charges out, and plugs a gap I've not heard since TSP. It goes through a systematic process of verse, riff, chorus, breakdown, repeat; very straightforward, and it bloody works. Then it tops it off by erupting into the bridge after the enigmatic line, We are losing control. For me, it's the follow up to Time is Running Out, because it returns to what Muse are good at: pure, unfiltered rock. I Belong to You is something else, though. It doesn't sound like anything I've heard before, the only song I can think of is Feeling Good, and that was a cover and doesn't sound a thing like it. The connection is Bellamy's devotion to the piano. He pounds away to a weird, unfamiliar song, and it's a good laugh. On the radio, it sounded awesome, Craig James taken aback by how out of place it was on Radio 1. It's sultry, and naughty, because it's so different from the tripe nowadays, people feel they shouldn't enjoy such a fantastic, daft tune.
Overall Impression — 9
Oh, and for all the people who complained about Matt Bellamy singing in French, one word; diverse. That's all I'm saying And talented. For crying out loud, they adapted an aria from an opera from 1877! It works for me, and it should work for you too. If this album was judged purely on skill, no one would deny that Muse are terrific. But as a band? Well, let's just see Everyone talks about the symphony. An I've said before, it's a bit out of place on the album, perhaps a bit too big for it's boots. But I wouldn't have left it out; quite the contrary. It reminds me of the old Muse, plus ten years of working in music. It's such an arresting narrative as well; the story of a doomed earth hanging it's last chance of survival on a final expedition into space. Where else is there a better setting for a symphony? Of course, it's supped up by Chris and Dom providing a modern backing track, in true Muse style. But the thundering drumbeats don't dominate they remind me of the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey, and compliment the atmosphere of wonder and mystery. A song for the human race, I feel. Finally, a song just for me, that makes me shiver every time I here it. I'm listening to it right now, as I write this paragraph, and I'm covered in goose bumps. That song, my friends, is United States of Eurasia. Pitchfork Media mentioned that the song would make even the most passionate zealot roll their eyes. Well, I've got to say: bullsh*t. The song is NOT outlandish, it is NOT shameless. Completely the opposite in fact. UNE started quite a fuss on the Muse website. The love of the song spawned an epic across the globe; diehard fans travelled country to country looking for mystical USB's, containing a sixth of the song, to upload to the Project Eurasia page on the official website And that was before the album was released. United States is truly genius. Without breaking it down, I can easily say it's a beautiful song. It has that feel good sensation you get in the cinema, when the surround makes your lungs vibrate, and for the first time in ages, you feel excited. The piano work on the song is perfect, gently etching out the feeling of curiosity, and criticism of a higher power. The Arabian Nights style riff is so uplifting, I could just hug the song, it makes me feel so much better. The bass distortion is dynamic, and keeps the song lively and regular. At the end, the song moves into the moving instrumental, arranged from Chopin's work Nocturne in E-Flat. The children playing, overdubbed by jet planes and bombs, is devious and disturbing, sharpening Bellamy's angle on war, particularly the use of the cold term collateral damage. I hope that Muse never leave us, and keep up this standard. I just feel they're something sentimental, a reminder that not all music has to be written as two week sell-outs, and can be rediscovered again and again. Or at least I hope so. Perhaps we should look back at the Noughties and reflect Let's start over again this time we'll get it right.