22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Absolution: Bonkers, Bombastic, Brilliant,
This review is from: Absolution (Audio CD)
Muse are basically a three piece guitar band, with added synthesisers, keyboards and arpeggiators. But that description hardly does them justice.
The rhythm section (Chris Howard on bass and Dominic Wolstenhome on bass) are excellent. They ensure that however wild the frontman's flights of fancy, Muse will always rock. Compare them with a pretty but drippy band like Coldplay and you will hear the difference.
But what makes Muse truly special is the extraordinary Matt Bellamy. This demented pixie was born with more musical talent than is decent. He is a virtuoso guitarist, an excellent keyboard player and a truly remarkable vocalist. I have clocked him on the Absolution album singing an E over top C - higher than the most demanding note expectd of a tenor in an operatic aria. He should be apprehended for wailing in a built up area. OK, by the time he gets into batsqueak register it is hardly bel canto, but believe me it works. Bellamy is often compared as a singer with Thom Yorke of Radiohead, but Yorke's voice while beautiful has a far more limited range. Bellmay reminds me more of the late lamented Billy McKenzie of The Associates, which is good company to be in.
Bellamy is also conducting a well-documented love affair with classical composers of the turn of the century, and in particular Rachmaninov. Like Bellamy, I love Rachmaninov, but the old man's music was not always, shall we say, in the most perfect taste. Think up market Hollywood film music and you will not be too far off. The emotionalism and extravagance of such music lends its influence brilliantly to Muse's over the top sound. We get the arpeggios and runs of Russian piano music married to a powerful hard rock backing. This may seem unappetising to the uninitiated, but the result is both beautiful and utterly distinctive. Muse sound like no other band on the planet. The fact that they lost out at the Brit awards to cliche-fuelled retro-rockers The Darkness is just another sad instance of the British love of camp mediocrity.
There are numerous fine tracks on Absolution, but my personal favourite has to be Stockholm Syndrome. If you have never seen the video for this song - widely available on the Internet - do have a look at this extraordinary hallucinogenic film of the band in performance. It's certainly one of the best music videos I have ever seen. I suspect that Matt and the boys love their mushrooms as much as any hobbit.
If I had to whine about something it would be the lyrics, although even here there are clear signs of improvement over their previous Origins of Symmetry album (also brilliant, by the way). Some of Matt's lyrics now scan and there is even some sign of effective rhyme. I like the apocalyptic subject matter, and if he ever learns to write words as inspiring as the music, Muse will truly become a band for the ages.
Some have called Muse a "prog rock" band, and I doubt if this is intended as a compliment. But whereas the classical influences on 1970s bands like ELP tended to produce pretentious and flaccid "concept" double albums that rocked not a jot, Muse have a produced a powerful and tight single album that rocks as hards as anything by AC/DC. I have never seen them live, but from watching a filmed concert I conclude that they are likely to be awesome.
OK, Bellamy is a bit bonkers. Muse can be bombastic. But they are also brilliant. They are one of very few truly original bands now working in popular music and they deserve all the success they are now getting. Buy this record.