|1. New Born|
|3. Space Dementia|
|4. Hyper Music|
|5. Plug In Baby|
|6. Citizen Erased|
|7. Micro Cuts|
|9. Dark Shines|
|10. Feeling Good|
I took a bit of a chance buying their first album "Showbiz" as I hadn't heard their stuff before. I was not disappointed. (And if I'm really honest the only reason why I bought it was because I thought the vocalist looked a little bit like Wolverine out of the recent X-men film.). "Showbiz" got me hooked and I wanted more. However, of the two albums "Origin of Symmetry" is the better.
Muse's music is stylised and is instantly recognisable but the album still retains a good deal of variety. "Screenager" is fairly slow and melancholy; "New Born" is more of a slow build up while "Plug in Baby" is solid rock. My personal favourites are "Hyper Music", "Bliss" and "Citizen Erased". The opening for "Hyper Music" is an absolute killer.
This album however, also has a quality that it is hard to define. There is something about this album that makes it so much greater than the some of its parts. The best way I can describe it is that each of the songs seem to become alive, learn to walk and go their own way. This album has such verve, that when you're listening, it makes you feel alive.
This album is great. I loved it. I even liked the case.
The trouble with Muse is that they make the creation of superb art rock look so easy that most listeners will take it for granted. Unless you've been around a few years and listened to a few other bands' attempts to create this sort of music, then you may fail to appreciate the unique mix of creative talent, inspiration, sheer hard work, and encyclopaedic knowledge of rock history that must have gone into this project.
Sadly, the only influence most reviewers on this site have spotted has been Radiohead. That's fair enough up to a point. Matt Bellamy sounds a bit like Thom Yorke on some songs, and Muse owe Radiohead an even more important debt: It's only because Radiohead carved out a mass market for this kind of art-rock back in the late 90's that there is an opening for new bands like Muse now. However, it is unfair to write Muse off as copyists. On the contrary, they have in some respects surpassed Radiohead at their best, matching the sonic ambition of Radiohead's later work without sacrificing the melodic sweep and the compelling hooks that made "The Bends" so listenable. What's more, Bellamy's voice is a considerably more flexible and emotionally powerful instrument than Yorke's, and embraces far older and deeper influences going right back to the late '60's. Van der Graaf Generator is the most obvious influence, but there's also a heavy sprinkling of King Crimson, at least a nod to middle-period U2, a hint of Japan and others if you listen for them. It's all very British, but encyclopaedic for all that.
The key structural difference between Muse and that first wave of prog bands is a welcome one: Muse have learned to say in a four-minute song what some of the seventies prog-rockers needed a 20 minute mini-concerto for. They have some way to go before they outgun the older bands for sheer musical virtuosity, but even that is no bad thing. At least this never pretends to be anything but rock - a boundary that some of the old prog bands came dangerously close to crossing - and they have all the time and talent in the world to refine their art.
So what will you hear? Among a wealth of styles, you'll get delicate baroque-style keyboard arpeggios, some thundering ostinato bass lines, crunching splintery guitar, rock solid percussion, and possibly the most awesome, spine-tingling rock vocalising you've ever heard. Ultimately, it must be said, the band has so far broken little new ground. They seem to have been concentrating so far on drawing their influences together and weaving them into whole cloth for the new decade. But they are still amazingly young for this sort of mature work, and the intelligence and awesome technique they have brought to the task promises to propel them to the front rank.
From the maniacally fearsome opener New Born there's little breathing space as each track emerges from its lair of feedback to assault your senses. Bliss, the new single gives way to the organised chaos of Space Dementia, a mammoth piece which threatens to 'destroy this world'. And after hearing it, it's easy to see why. Then comes the defiant Hyper Music, returning to the intense riffing of the opening track and adding some excited bass. Soon after is Plug In Baby, with it's tense riff and bouncing bassline, the introduction of which has to be heard live to be fully appreciated. Then, Muse define the word 'epic' with Citizen Erased, a 7+ minute opus which still can't prepare you for the rending apocalyptic scream of Micro Cuts. A track which would probably beat Space Dementia's boast and destroy the whole universe; a musical black hole perhaps...
Then things calm down a little with Screenager, brimming with claustrophobic angst, but soon pick up with Darkshines' confused atmospheric rock. Feeling Good, the Nina Simone cover, manages to retain the sexiness of the original while giving it that triumphant edge Muse manage so well on this CD. To finish things off, the grand, deliciously overblown Megalomania with its church organ just about sums up what this album is about and provides what can easily be put into the 'finale' drawer.
I don't think I've heard any album quite so desperate to escape from the CD and start an interplanetary war, but then its to Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme and Dom Howard's credit that that's what they've made. A fully deserved five stars.
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