1. Who is the band? What is their history? What motivates them?
“Muse are a multi award-winning English alternative rock band that formed in Teignmouth, Devon in 1994. Since their inception, the band has comprised vocalist, guitarist and pianist Matthew Bellamy; bassist and backing vocalist Christopher Wolstenholme; and drummer Dominic Howard. Muse are known for their energetic and extravagant live performances and their fusion of many music genres, including progressive rock, classical music and electronica.
“Muse have released five studio albums – Showbiz (1999); Origin of Symmetry (2001); Absolution (2003); Black Holes and Revelations (2006), which earned the band a Mercury Prize nomination and a third place finish in the NME Albums of the Year list for 2006; and The Resistance (2009). Muse have won many other music awards throughout their career, including five MTV Europe Music Awards, five Q Awards, six NME Awards, two BRIT awards and four Kerrang! Awards. The majority of these awards have been attributed to their live performances” (Muse’s Wikipedia page, 2009).
2. Why did they make this album? What was the passion or message that forced them to produce what they have? Or, simply what was their motivation for the themes they chose for this album?
1. Uprising – The first single and an automatic hit. Hits you with guitar, drums and power syths the moment you put on the disc. Great rhythm and a strong opener to get things going. The idea, shake up the current New World Order. A constant reminder from this band that you can find echoed throughout their catalog. “We will be victorious!” How do you fight that? “Rise up and take the power back.” “We have to unify and watch our flag ascend.” The cheering in the middle is great. Accompanied by drums and guitar, and a short synth instrumental. Bellamy’s call to action thunders on…
2. Resistance – Spacey synths open the next song as we slow the pace. Resistance can take time after all. Then those awesome piano notes and the drum rhythm begins. Great follow – up after the launch on track one. The familiar Freddy Mercury sound of Bellamy’s voice, “will they find our hiding place?” “Our lips must always be sealed. The piano is wonderful here, giving you a break from the synths which continue to echo in the background. Bellamy’s voice takes charge on this one and the power lifts. Not to the level of Black Holes and Revelations, but definitely delivering the message with passion. “Love is our resistance.”
3. Undisclosed Desires – Strings, synths and drums open this one. The second single, for which a new video has been designed and released. “I want to recognize…” “…the undisclosed desires in your heart.” A modern day love song. The video is a performance video showing the band going through the motions of playing while being filmed.
4. United States of Eurasia/Collateral Damage – One of the better songs on the album. The Let it Be/Imagine sounding piano opening, then the Mercurial vocals really set this apart from the first three songs on the album. The piano provides the high standard of excellence and makes it memorable. The lyrics help to make an even stronger statement. Imagine, the United States of Eurasia as a method to end all war. The dramatic piano with the support of the strings creating a mini orchestra of support driving home the message with undeniable power and majesty. Then the piano interlude of Collateral Damage and it brings back so many great Queen interludes. Then they combine it with the Pink Floyd style background effects of the jet fly by, (the inside CD holder shows a picture of the band in front of the famous Pink Floyd Animals factory). Just perfect. But it’s over too quickly, but hang on there is even a better piano interlude at the end of the album. You recognize the influences but can see the original way they make it theirs. All your favorites in one song, the Beatles, Queen, and Pink Floyd. Second best song on the album IMHO. Gonna be high on my list of songs of the year!
5. Guiding Light – After such a powerful song and narrative what should follow? Powerful drums and that majestic Mercurial sound of vocals. “Loved by numbers.” “I can’t feel you anymore.” The loss of a mentor or guiding light and Bellamy passionately delivers the lines of loss. Sounds like a salute to either a close friend or the fans that support the band. “When there is no guiding light in our lives.”
6. Unnatural Selection – Organ sounds kick off this rocker slowly, and then the drums, guitar and synths begin to build a rhythm. “The lucky don’t care at all.” “No hope for fate.” “I want the truth.” “I’m hungry for some unrest.” A call to the new generation to accomplish what their parents did not achieve during the 60s? Maybe. The slow down and guitar solos are very good. But it all sounds like glamorized, fashionable revolt. What will we wear to the new revolution? Or is it a revolt to all of the corruption from the global business and political world? The New World Order conspiracy rears its ugly head again. Everyone is aligned to keep people down. Especially the young. Each generation must resist and revolt. We’ve heard this before. This one drags the album back to their past, instead of pushing forward to the future.
7. MK Ultra – This one bolts out fast as if a continuation of the last song. Certainly the theme continues. Guitars and thundering drums. “The wavelength gently grows.” “Creates unnatural laws.” “Replaces love and happiness with fear.” Sounds allot like what may have happened in the lead up to two of the wars we are fighting right now. There was a reference in US of E to wars going on and on forever.
8. I Belong to You/ Mon Coeur S’ouvre A Ta Voix – Another Queen inspired beginning here, complete with piano and an almost Burlesque sound to it. The ooh, ooh, oohs sound so much like Freddy Mercury. “I’ve traveled half the world to say…you are my mu…” Can’t say the word Muse, because that would have been a bit too much.
But there’s more.
Then Bellamy breaks into deep Freddy Mercury, complete with French lyrics. It’s almost makes you believe Freddy was his guiding light. Very operatic and way over the top. Just like his idol. It sets up the orchestrated finale perfectly though, complete with piano, drums and woodwinds.
9. Exogenesis: Symphony Part I (Overture) – This is by far my favorite. Many have compared this to the Electric Light Orchestra’s openings, and I understand their comparison. I want to give Muse credit and say the inspiration may have come from further back in history than that.
I remember seeing Fantasia for the first time when I was a child. That is what I hear in this incredible orchestral opening. Although I am a big fan of ELO, the Fantasia comparison really makes this one special for me. The Wizard of Oz like pipes in the picture on the inside front cover of the booklet also harkens back to deep in 20th Century history.
So much orchestration is involved in this piece that it is hard to imagine this is still part of the same rock album. Incredible pianos and some lightning Brian May – like guitar solos and drums throughout. They really pushed themselves creatively on this song. One of the best I have heard since Take a Bow on Black Holes and Revelations.
Bellamy’s Mercurial vocals really heighten the power of this soon to be a classic. The strength in their style is that they give you all the memories without duplicating what others have done. You hear obvious similarities but can definitely pick out the originality in this piece.
10. Exogenesis: Symphony Part II (Cross – Pollination) – The continuation is a wonderful roll down the piano keys supported with those memories of classics like Fantasia again. Strings and then the slow piano and Bellamy really driving home the Queen sound, but with different lyrics and a different purpose. Then an almost Queen, Flash Gordon, rev up along with the lyrics, “you can rescue us all.” Then just in time they’re back to the piano interlude.
11. Exogenesis: Symphony Part III (Redemption) – Then piano slowly played again like a classic interlude from Beethoven. “Let’s start over again.” “And we’ll be good.” “This time we’ll get it right.” “Last chance to forgive ourselves.” Redemption. Can we restart the world and make it right? A new dream, for a new generation?
3. What message are they delivering through their lyrics and music?
None other than Brian May, Queen’s legendary signature guitarist, has endorsed this band as a legitimate contender. Who am I to argue with him?
They do a great job bringing the power and spirit of Queen back to life, but in their own way. You cannot ignore the similarities from the subject matter of the lyrics to the way they are delivered. But Bellamy does a great job of making the sound of Muse different in his own way. Any comparisons between Night at the Opera and Resistance fall flat. Night at the Opera is a once in a lifetime experience, for any band. Even Queen didn’t come close until maybe Innuendo.
Resistance is actually a drop off from the much stronger Black Holes and Revelations for me. The two strong songs, Exogenesis and US of Eurasia are classics and should be part of any greatest hits compilation for this band. But Black Holes was a stronger album full of great songs. The only other real standout for me, other than the two mentioned is Uprising. Three tracks do not make a number one album, IMHO.
4. Does this music improve, change, or add to the genre? What does the listener receive from listening to the music?
The three songs mentioned earlier really do make this album a contender, but if you look at their make – up, there is less of the rock and more of the orchestration to these powerful tracks. Great creativity and musicianship, but with so many guest artists is it still Muse? Putting the orchestra’s name on the back of the disc, in a difficult to read circle, is a nice way of trying to hide the fact that your best songs were performed by other musicians.
But still it is their album and its highlights are very high. Some will have a hard time classifying this totally as traditional prog with so many classical compositions, but if you look back at Queen, Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis, ELP, etc, they used allot of orchestration as well. The Firebird Suite which opened Yes’ live shows also springs to mind when I hear the opening of Exogenesis.
So I definitely recommend the disc for the three songs mentioned. The others may grow on me in time, but the highs are worth tracking through the lows.
5. Does it have longevity? Is it something a fan will like to play again and again?
I know three songs that will get constant airtime here.
Rating: 8/10 – Excellent three songs, but the rest are average.
Reviewed by Prof on Novemeber 25th, 2009