, 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
Love them or hate them there's no denying that Muse have energy in abundance. In Absolution, their third offering, they appear more dramatic and tortured than ever.
I was completely bowled over by the force of 1999s Showbiz and the ability of singer Matt Bellamy to work himself into a frenzy over the course of 3 minutes. From that point on Muse knew they'd hit on a winning formula; Origin of Symmetry (2001) and now Absolution show no departure from this original sound.
"Apocalypse Please" is a daring opener and sets the scene for what could have been the most dramatic album of the year. I say could have been because with the advent of The Darkness, Muse may find themselves fighting it out for top spot in the rock opera stakes. It seems that understated isn't currently the order of the day in British music.
Absolution laughs in the face of subtlety. In fact most of the tracks would make an excellent soundtrack to any blockbuster suspense movie. There's no mistaking that Muse make it their aim to render as much conflict as possible in both their lyrics and instrumentals. Single "Time Is Running Out" is a great example of this. "You will squeeze the life out of me", he sings. We know how he feels. This album is not for the faint-hearted and should not be played in times of stress or emotional unease. I fear for the students locked away in their cold rooms crying out "I wanted freedom but I'm restricted, I tried to give you up but I'm addicted".
Bellamy has been compared to Rachmaninov. I wonder whether either of them would be complimented by this comparison, but it's certainly true that Muse are at their best when Matt is at the piano. "Butterflies and Hurricanes" demonstrates his undisputed talent excellently.
Muse demand a reaction and you have to admire that in a band. If you ignore the fact that these songs are probably just a vehicle for Bellamy to divulge his obsession with all that is dark and sinister, you're left with a number of finely crafted and very palatable songs. Don't be ashamed, embrace the melodrama! --Nikki Smith
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