If you could pick a word to describe this album, it would have to be ‘enigmatic’. After a whirlwind two years that’s seen Muse headline two nights at a sold-out Wembley stadium, successfully begin to crack America and play a huge homecoming gig in their hometown of Teignmouth, Devon, the three piece have served us up this offering of, well, confusion. The album opens with Uprising, a stomping, balls out number with the cry “They will not control us, we will be victorious!”.
A typical Muse line you would think, but the whole song is railing against the mainstream, the government and probably anyone who’s ever agreed with the BBC. And it’s brilliant. This is followed by Resistance, which is one of the album’s stand out moments. Starting with a piano riff that could feature on any classic dance song, Muse crank up the intensity as the song goes on into a chorus that’s catchier than the plague. To start the album with two superb songs could be seen as trying to impress early, but for Muse ir doesn’t seem to even enter the consciousness, in fact the album is probably put in order of how poppy the songs are, from most to least! Moving through the album, you get a strong sense Muse have actually tried to tone being Muse down on this album, and gone for just writing songs.
United States of Eurasia aside, the first 8 songs don’t really offer up too much in the way of the sheer insanity that makes Muse one of the most exciting bands in the world. However that’s not detracting from the album, in fact it adds to it. Before the album came out, Matt Bellamy was quoted as saying they could either make an album of “Supermassive Black Hole” style songs, or “A one song album that is just a symphony”. The result falls into neither camp. Undisclosed Desires shimmies and shakes with undisguised suggestivity, whereas Unnatural Selection starts out as a sad song with an organ, but then goes all angry with classic Muse guitar licks, and even a few melodies that throw back to System of a Down’s Mesmerize. But the beauty of this album is that, whilst drawing influences from far and wide, it is unmistakeably Muse. They’ve crafted an album that is an enigma, shimmering with different elements and moving so fast you can’t keep up. And that’s before you take into account the bonkers bits.
United States of Eurasia is our first encounter with what most expected this album to be like. A piano and Matt Bellamy, lamenting about how the wars we’ve started can never be won, before exploding into Queen-like magnificence, like Knights of Cydonia on painkillers. It’s a song that is brilliant in the way that it’s Muse addressing the world, calling out to anyone and everyone. And it’s undeniably, incredibly epic. But they’ve not overegged the omelette to do it, it’s just minimal enough to be able to keep its place in the normal world without being carted off to the asylum. However the same can not be said for the last 15 and a half minutes of the album, which are undeniably mental. First, the sassy assault of I Belong To You, 2 minutes in morphs into a completely different song, with Bellamy singing in French. Yes, you read that right. And the song goes completely Gallic too, with French influences flooding through into the fore before Muse pretend they didn’t do it and cut back into the song.
Once you recover from that, you have Exogenesis Symphony Parts I, II and III to contend with. Imagine if Matt Bellamy dug up Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart and Rachmaninov and then got them to play instruments while he used his guitar to prod them and make them play harder. Fortunately you don’t have to imagine it, it’s here on record. Muse have subverted all expectations with this album, they’ve gone for pop mixed with their usual grandeur. It’s bold, it’s big, and it works. There are a few bum notes (Guiding Light is a bit too stadium-rock too really work in the way it’s attempting to), but overall Muse have crafted a superbly respectable album. It’s the sort of album that will only be understood on the fourth or fifth listen, but once you do unlock the door to it, you’re able to understand why Muse are one of the biggest bands in the world. Viva La Resistance.
Essential Tracks: Resistance, Unnatural Selection