on 25 June 2002
I heard this album by accident when my 13 year old daughter brought it home, and I was impressed enough to go out and buy my own copy. I have to say (with affection) that it's wasted on her, and I'm not sure there are many other teenagers around who will grasp why Muse are so important. In fact you probably have to be a 40-something like me to fully appreciate who their influences have been and what the young band has done with them.
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.
on 17 August 2001
Forget their debut album, and the incessant comparisons with Radiohead (although I don't think they were that similar), this album will blow you away, and probably your entire house. Almost every track is an excellent example of how to mix classical influence with all-out rock.
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.
on 20 June 2001
i didn't really get into muse when they first came out although i liked their singles, but i thought this was a vital purchase, and it was. it's not at all indi music like coldplay, and only nods towards rdiohead in bits but not as much as showbiz could have. i love the prog-rock influences like King Crimson because it makes prog cool again. muse don't care about being pretentious they just make excellent songs with strong bass and experimental guitar and keyboards, and mr.bellamy's voice is stunning. i love the beautiful keyboards on bliss and the latin/reggae vibe on darkshines. two of the songs (hyper music and citizen erased)sound just like a rage against the machine riff but it's turned into muses own style just like the nina simmone cover 'feeling good'. it's clever, interesting and different, i'd recommend it to people who like radiohead's heavier moments and the structure of tools songs or anyone with an open mind. my mum likes it but it just shows how cool she is. buy it if you want something new and exciting this year.
on 10 September 2001
Close your eyes. Now try to imagine guitar work that sounds as good as anything by Jimi Hendrix. Add to that a screaming lead singer who never misses a note, belting out some of the most angst-ridden (and strangest) lyrics you've heard in a while. That's pretty much what this album sounds like.
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.
on 29 July 2001
Quite simply, I love this album to pieces. As someone who never owned a Muse record until the New Born single was released, I can't claim to be a critically informed reviewer; all I CAN say is that if you liked the 2 singles (as well as forthcoming single Bliss) then get the album because it's ALL like that. There seriously isn't a bad track; it's just a continuous swirl of gorgeous riotous noise that leaves you disappointed when one track ends, only to be immediately uplifted again when the next one starts. Matt Bellamy's voice reaches exquisite levels of fervour and emotion - I don't know if he's being serious or melodramatic or both and I can't begin to comprehend the lyrics but DAMN it sounds fantastic anyway. The tunes, needless to say, rock. And, unlike a lot of the trash out there, they ARE tunes; you get the feeling some actual effort and musical talent was put into them, and in no small amount. No ambiguity here then; this is an album that will make others wonder why you're smiling in the rain, and if you've got a handy wide open space in which to sing along at the top of your voice (or if, apparently like Bellamy, you just have no inhibitions), then so much the better.
on 23 December 2005
I am a massive radiohead fan and got origin because people always say muse are very similar to radiohead. I listened to the album once, and it blew me away. This is what I imagine radiohead would have done if they had gone back after ok computer to heavier "the bends" style rock. But enough about radiohead, this album...
What can I say apart from it's amazing. Each song is so much louder and more powerful than I thought it would be, but they still have the radiohead derived intricateness and amazing music and vocals to back it up.
There really arent any bad songs on this album and its going directly under OK Computer to be my second favourite album, EVER.
on 21 November 2002
Upon hearing Muse's first album, 'Showbiz', I decided that I would purchase 'Origin of Symmetry'. Admittedly I believed that nothing was able to live up to the first album, but it was worth a try nonetheless. I must say now that I was wrong.
The first song, suitably named 'New Born', begins with a simple but nice piano piece. Matt Bellamy's vocals mix in. From nowhere, a loud guitar riff bursts in, leading to the rest of the song containing brilliant guitar work and a strange, accordion-like ending.
'Bliss' is the second piece on the CD, and is a well-chosen follow-up to 'New Born'. Piano and keyboard arpeggios lead to a chorus with gut-wrenching vocals and brilliant use of chords. The music really reflects the song's lyrics and leaves you holding your breath at the end.
The next song, 'Space Dementia' takes a few listens to get used to. Once heard several times, you can begin to appreciate the fantastic piano playing and helium-filled vocals.
Fourth up is 'Hyper Music'. As the name suggests, it is satisfyingly chaotic. The demonic bass line pounds all the way through, fed by ripping vocals. Much like their earlier material. You get a feeling of absolute power surging out of your hi-fi and through your body.
Next in line is the acclaimed 'Plug In Baby'. Although I never used to think much of it, it dawned on me how musically fantastic the song is, especially the famous guitar solo and perfect ending vocals. Despite its popularity, I believe that it is not the best song on the album.
'Citizen Erased' has a mood of change to it. Constantly mutating into different styles throughout, it keeps you on your toes. Some of the best drum work I have heard in a long time. From the middle to the end, it turns into a symphonic-style peaceful tune.
My all-time favourite, 'Micro Cuts' is deep, dark and disturbing. Almost operatic vocally and with sinister guitar pieces. Gradually, it spirals into angst-ridden hard rock, but without the vocals. Worth buying the album for this song only.
'Screenager', like 'Space Dementia', takes a lot of listening to get used to. Interesting guitar work and an absolutely beautiful blend of keyboard and vocals. The most disturbing lyrics on the album lie here, but also he gentlest vocals.
Next is 'Dark Shines' with its Egyptian-style guitar solos all the way through, and static-like, noisy chorus. This is probably the song I liked least, but nevertheless I liked it very much. Do I also hear a melotron or similar instrument in the chorus?
The penultimate song is a fantastic cover of 'Feeling Good' written by Bricusse/Newley, but with Muse's own style. You can hear the jazzy rhythms and blues scales determinedly screaming out over the rest of the song. 'Feeling Good' proves how Muse are so good at taking on any style they feel like better than the other songs.
Finally, we arrive at 'Megalomania'. Quiet intro and verse build up the feeling, and suddenly a loud, juicy organ piece and soaring vocals all kick in. One more verse and then another, final chorus with equally breathtaking backing vocals. Dark as ever, Muse end on a song like this, to keep the ambience the CD creates alive afterwards.
To conclude, I would like to say that THIS is rock. People who own Slipknot, Mushroomhead and Blink 182 records must realise this.
However, I find it frustrating when people tell me that they like Muse, but they can't fully appreciate Muse's potential. It is damn near impossible to create music like this; not just performing it, but writing it too. Anyone with music knowledge should be able to see the talent Bellamy, Howard and Wolstenholme have, and appreciate it fully.
I cannot wait to hear Muse's next album (aside from Hullabaloo, a collection of b-sides and a live concert). The three young men have a bright future ahead of them, and I think that all rock bands should be influenced and guided by Muse... I was.
Never were proud to be British? Now you should be.
on 21 June 2002
Following a debut album as accomplished as 'Showbiz' was always going to be hard, but Muse return with a nigh-on flawless album.
'Origin of Symmetry' is prog-rock at its absolute finest and the depth achieved is incredible. From the arpeggiated, synthesised melody of 'Bliss', the bluesy 'Feeling Good', and the fantastic, 7 minute, prog majesty that is 'Citizen Erased': a track with a brilliant instrumental and an sublime ending.
Lyrics are always slightly bizarre in prog, 'Origin of Symmetry' is no exception. Bellamy has an incredibe voice and his lyrics are, in places, downright scary. In particular, 'Meglomania', featuring some very disturbing mental images.
There is something about bands' second albums - the albums are nearly perfect. Just look at Feeder and Placebo - 'Yesterday Went Too Soon' and 'Without You I'm Nothing' were more or less perfect albums. 'Origin of Symmetry' is akin to those two albums and Bellamy, it must be said, is a musical genius. If you have even the slightest doubt about buying this album, don't, just buy it, you will not be disappointed by the seamless quality and endless lastbility of one of the best albums I've ever listened to.
on 31 December 2004
Second albums, so often the downfall of a fledgling band with 'potential'. Not here. After the moderate success of 'Showbiz', it might have been tempting to try and replicate what people liked about there debut LP, but with Origin of Symmetry Muse have really moved on to where they should have been with their debut.
The first thing to note is the production, somewhat uninspiring on Showbiz (betraying the quality of some of the songs - see them live if you want proof), Origin is a truly fulfilling album. No longer being produced to sound like 'The Bends', Origin has the gain turned up high in an explosion of rock riffs and distorted guitars. 'New Born' is a fantastic opening track that threatens to set too high a bench mark for the rest of the album, but not so. Other stand out tracks are Plug in Baby (featuring a riff that will surely be remembered alongside rocks greatest), Citizen Erased (a brilliantly diverse track that is so fluid that you don't realise its been playing for over 7 minutes)and Micro Cuts (an aquired taste maybe, but Matt Bellamy's vocals are truly mesmerizing as they get stronger with the zeniths of each falsetto chorus and a dirty riff to finish).
The song writing (as is true of all of Muse's albums) is not what makes these tracks work - the musicianship on this album is of real high standard. And don't be fooled by anyone that tells you that Muse is the Matt Bellamy show - Dom Howard on drums and bassist Chris Wolstenholme truly shine in this three piece that is definately more than the sum of its parts.
This one is definatelty recommended. One for riff-lovers and rock listeners that want to hear something not just original but unique.
on 17 November 2003
I think Origin of Symmetry is a fantastic album. I've really enjoyed listening to it over the years, and it's a sound investment, as you don't get sick of it after hearing each track 5 times. I agree with the other critic that not all of it's tracks are absolutely stunning, but I'd say at least half are, and I'd definitely recommend it.