This is a second review from a new guest poster BobOnPot.
Muse can’t decide who they are. That’s the conclusion I reached when I first gave the album The Resistance (2009) a listen. At different times, I thought I was listening to an array of different artists from Queen to Panic! at the Disco.
If you know about Muse, you would know they like trying new things musically, making each album sound different from the previous ones. Just compare the tracks from Black Holes to Showbiz, and you may realize their sound has clearly changed. If you really know Muse, you would know they like popping some shrooms and taking their listeners on interstellar journeys through time and space. Just look at the cover of the newest album.
Like many bands with enough artistic integrity to not ride out their entire fame on the same sound, Muse started out with harder, purer rock album (listen to tracks such as “Muscle Museum” or “Uno”) and moved to newer, more radio-friendly tracks which brought about their international fame (“Time is Running Out”). Unlike those many bands, the newly evolved Muse is actually able to go out of their element and create something good. In addition, they are willing to try less popular concepts.
Muse have created a modern-day rock opera concept album. Their influences by some old-timer bands can be heard in almost every track. Just the idea of a (successful) concept album has not really been heard of for a few decades. Each track has a different sound, but is held together by some commonalities. This album is political, not in the Rage Against the Machine, let’s burn Wall Street to the ground political, but more in the 1984, we’re being observed and brainwashed to be mindless zombies sense. In addition, as mentioned before, Muse are taking the listeners on a journey, with various different stops along the way.
The following is a review of each track individually.
The song starts with a pretty catchy bass line and some kind of alien-like synth. sound. The chorus, along with the mob chant towards the end, delivers a feeling of defiance and arouses the desire to start throwing rocks at riot police and march down to the capitol building. In my opinion, this song is the most Muse-like on the entire album. It picks up where Black Holes left off with “Knights of Cydonia,” with the message to stop letting others, be it the government or the popular kids or Big Brother, control our lives and stand up to the lies that are fed to us on a regular basis. Muse want their listeners to use their own intelligence to see the world for what it really is. This song seems to be critical towards the United States, in particular, and the Americans’ scarcity of intelligence and open-mindedness, and abundance of Prozac in their systems. With lines like “Flick the switch and open your third eye,” and “Rise up and take the power back, /it’s time that the fat cats had a heart attack,” their message is pretty clear: starting thinking for yourselves, and if you don’t like what you see, do something about it. Certainly, the song would have been a great addition to V for Vendetta’s soundtrack.
The title track on the album also happens to be its strongest. It begins with the ghoulish moaning of Bellamy, which creeps me out every time I think that that’s a living man making those sounds. It sounds almost exactly like in “Citizen Erased” right before the piano portion. The song then breaks into a very catchy and melancholy piano bit. Technically, the band does not fully strut their stuff here. With no killer guitar or piano solos, the lyrics and vocals are what make this song so excellent, much like many songs out of other concept albums. Speaking of vocals, this song has one of the strongest, most emotionally charged choruses I have heard in recent memory. Following the mood of bold defiance in the previous track, this song kind of Mementos its way backwards in time to explain what brought about the outrage in Uprising. The song begins eerily with an ambience of isolation and fear with words like, “Is your secret safe tonight? /And are we out of sight?” and “Will they find our hiding place? /Is this our last embrace? /Or will the walls start caving in?” but the chorus portrays a feeling of hope to correct said injustices. Listeners can feel hope, no matter how bleak the situation looks with lyrics like “If we live our lives in fear/ I’ll wait a thousand years/ Just to see you smile again.” Did I mention I really like this song, a lot?
3. Undisclosed Desires
The beginning of this song reminds me a bit of a Panic! at the Disco song, but quickly changes to something more familiar. This song is more romantic, which seemingly backtracks to explain the relationship between the subjects in the previous song. While this is another example of a song different from Muse’s regular stuff, overall, this song is very catchy and demonstrates Muse’s wide range of songwriting abilities. My favorite lines are “You may be a sinner/ But your innocence is mine” showing their poetic ability through somewhat of an oxymoron.
4. United States of Eurasia
This song is one of the more unique songs the band has attempted. It reveals several classic rock-god bands’ obvious influence on Muse. The beginning is almost indistinguishable from Queen. It’s almost as if Freddy Mercury pulled a Tupac and is making songs from beyond the grave. Then it breaks into a very epic Middle-Eastern style orchestra that reminds me of a Led Zeppelin live version of “Kashmir”. The clincher for this song is Bellamy’s recital of Chopin’s Nocturne Opus 9, No.2 in E-flat towards the conclusion. The theme of the song has returned to defiance. The song demonstrates clear displeasure towards the United States (of America) and her perceived attempt to dominate the world, starting with Europe and Asia, specifically through the Iraq War. Lyrics like “And these wars, they can’t be won/ Does anyone know or care how they begun” give away their sentiments towards the current situation. The peaceful ending with Chopin ties in very well with the epic sounds of unrest in the rest of the song with the ironic effects of what sounds like jet planes followed by what I can imagine is an atomic bomb going off.
5. Guiding Light
This song somewhat deviates from the theme of the previous songs, going back to the more ambiguous but lovely sounds for which Muse is known. Although not a standout track, there is a strong guitar solo that reminds me of something Slash would produce in a G’nR song.
6. Unnatural Selection
This track returns to the rest of the album as a riot song. There are parts of this song that reminds me a bit of songs from System of a Down’s Mesmerize. The guitar riff in the background is very powerful and energizing. Overall, the song would make an excellent part of a live performance. Having seen Muse live several times, I look forward to their next live performance of this song.
7. MK Ultra
This song is the closest thing to a filler song this album has. It doesn’t stand out but the guitar-work shows glimpses of old-school head-banging hard rock.
8. I Belong to You (Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix)
This features music from the original French opera. Like “Feeling Good”, Muse are able to take something from an older act and make it sound phenomenal. Not much else needs to be said except there is some French in there, which makes me mad. Criticize America then show some Frenchy love? Ridiculous.
9-11. Exogensis Symphony Parts 1-3
I’ve decided to combine the review for these three songs since they flow very well together as one piece. This symphony shows off Bellamy’s piano skills once again, as well as his androgynous eerie voice. These songs are comparable to the purpose of Pink Floyd’s The Wall’s ending when all the dust and struggles have settled and the listener has been liberated. It is just an epic journey for the auditory sense. The final lyrics are a bit unsettling in that everything seems to be all well and done with, but the words, “Just let us start it over again/ And we’ll be good/ This time we’ll get it…/ We’ll get it right” seem to predict that we cannot learn from past mistakes and ending such turmoil still allows for such mistakes to occur again.
Muse are able to successfully incorporate over 40 years of rock music and I don’t know how many years of music if you include that French stuff into less than one hour of work. They are not Queen; they are not Zeppelin; but they do a good job. In this day and age of crap rock, Muse gives the future of rock music a glimmer of hope. I recommend you listen to the entire album in one sitting. Some substance enhancements would not be discouraged. Enjoy.