When I was fourteen, Muse became my favorite band. Considering what I’d been listening to before I heard them, they were actually a fairly sophisticated choice. I was finally starting to move beyond the realm of bands like Good Charlotte, Senses Fail, and New Found Glory (which I had moved on to from Christian music). I had been taking piano lessons for about five years, and I had grown to hate the instrument, mostly because I hated my teacher. So I was impressed with a band like Muse, who could write songs in which the piano sounded like something wholly different from the object of my distaste. They were playing the kind of music that I had always wanted to learn in my lessons but never did. It wasn’t necessarily difficult to play (barring the solo in “Butterflies And Hurricanes,” which floored me when my fourteen year old ears heard it), but it was certainly memorable, and as someone who wanted to forget all about the piano, that impressed me to no end.
Looking back, I find myself much more ashamed of loving them as much as I did than I am of loving a band like Good Charlotte, because Muse are now the worst band ever.
When Muse first started getting a lot of attention, there were a lot of Radiohead comparisons, which sent die-hard Radiohead fans into a tizzy because of Muse’s supposed unworthiness of the honor. That’s true, of course – Radiohead are a far superior band – but the comparisons aren’t unwarranted, exactly. Muse were basically a more radio-friendly version of Radiohead, and I can sort of see how people who didn’t like Radiohead would latch on to a band like Muse, who are easier to understand and require far less of the listener’s attention. When I first heard Muse, I was a long way from being a Radiohead listener, so I never thought of any of this then, but now I can’t help wondering whether or not Matt Bellamy was perfectly aware of what he was doing; that is, did he know how similar his band sounded to Radiohead, and did he make it that way to reach success?
It sort of makes sense in a far-reaching way. Consider the fact that after Absolution, their breakout album in the mainstream, they basically abandoned their earlier formula and started doing their own thing with Black Holes And Revelations. There were still similarities, but Bellamy had obviously gotten a bit full of himself, and the music became similarly bloated. It was also the start of Muse’s string of awful, pandering singles, the first of which was “Starlight,” a song with a piano motif that brings to mind the bouncing melody of a song like Van Halen’s “Jump” that gets stuck in your head no matter how much you dislike the song. It’s debatable whether Muse were ever truly creative, but they at least definitely came close with their first few albums, no matter how much they aped Radiohead.
After gaining success, however, they abandoned creativity in favor of adding in every stupid element they could think of to their music to try to cover up how woefully inadequate their songwriting had become. It’s similar to the criticisms lobbed at Lady Gaga. Her detractors will say that she uses her elaborate costumes, concert set pieces, and music videos to cover up the fact that she’s not actually creative or different at all. That’s how I see Muse these days. The latest song of theirs to dominate the airwaves is “Uprising,” a song so unbearably horrible that I want to punch my fourteen year old self in the face. Why does Bellamy insist on stretching out either the beginning or the end of every line in the chorus for at least three or four seconds? He does that in “Starlight” too. Also “Stockholm Syndrome.” And “Time Is Running Out” as well. I’m not going to rant and rail about how everybody should hate Muse and the fact that they’re popular proves how doomed the world is or something. That would be hypocritical. But it does seem like a lot of their fans are still on the Muse wagon out of nostalgia, and Bellamy is able to keep them there by adding in just enough crazy shit to the songs to make people think that he’s doing something interesting.
Back when they were my favorite band, Muse deserved to be big. But when they actually got there, everything went to shit. Now, each of the three members has their own Wikipedia page, even the shitty drummer, and stages like this are somehow seen as a viable option for them. They blew every good thing about their music out of proportion to the point of ridiculousness, and I find myself so bothered by their new music that it actually makes me question whether or not I should have loved their earlier albums in the first place. Even now when I (rarely) listen to The Origin Of Symmetry or Absolution, I can’t help but notice the sour taste in the back of my throat. A favorite band losing favor in the eyes of the listener is par for the course for people who consistently find new music, but it always comes a surprise, especially when it’s this violent and sudden, and it does make me a bit sad.
But holy god “Uprising” is a shitty song.