, size is most definitely an issue. Hoping that it will finally propel them into the musical major leagues, Muse have set out to create a cross-genre monster, a contemporary meisterwerk, the biggest-sounding album in years. That they almost succeed is testament to their sky-high confidence and unarguable abilities. With just three members to draw upon, they've individually stretched themselves to fill in the inevitable sonic gaps. Bassist Chris Wolstenholme, in particular, does sterling work, producing a driving buzz to lift "Time Is Running Out" to a massive crescendo, then a rush of distortion that pushes "Hysteria" to Queen
-like levels of ecstasy.
Throughout, Matt Bellamy adds classical grace with his tinkling, rolling grand piano, all the while moaning and shrieking out his fear of decay, destruction and death, like a traumatised Gene Pitney. Indeed, aside from their classical leanings and clear kinship with the prog-rock likes of Queen and Rush (there are some outbreaks of metal here), Muse often draw on classic pop, employing lush 1960s-style arrangements. With "Blackout" they go even further, daring to conjure Bacharach's "Magic Moments". If there's a weakness here, it's that the songwriting remains inconsistent, but this is usually covered up by musicianship and studio wizardry that leave Coldplay languishing in Muse's dust. --Dominic Wills