CD1: A selection of B-sides recorded between March 1999 and October 20001
While it may seem that prog rock has had its time, Muse have risen to become known as a great progressive rock group that have created themselves a comfortable niche in the current music industry. Their creative talent has helped create to some epic tracks such as Knights Of Cydonia, Citizen Erased and in turn their albums as a whole have been great. But along the creative process that gives us these records there are the few tracks that never quite manage the final stage of becoming an album track so therefore end up as elusive b-sides. Thankfully this CD is a compilation of 10 b-sides that were recorded between March 1999 and October 2001.
Forced In (Uno B-side)
To kick of this adventure of a CD, Forced In starts with mellow guitars and gentle falsetto lyrics. The songs progresses into a slow moving song with a simple drum beat and many gentle, swirling guitar effects. The song lacks any sort of structure but the melodic guitar riff and Bellamy's dreamy-sounding vocals carry the song and lead it out among pick scrapes and white noise. As I said at the beginning of this review Muse have made a name for themselves as the latest prog rock band and this could definitely be numbered as one of their more progressive/experimental moments, at just over 4 minutes long it doesn't drag on and become boring as I'm sure it would be but it's long enough to be an enjoyable moment. One of the things I've noticed with this album is that it shows many ideas that would go on to be implemented in their later songs and this idea is present here. Falsetto vocals like this would later go on to be used in songs such as Micro Cuts, Screenager and Ruled By Secrecy. While this song will take a while to get used to its still a great way of opening this CD.
Shrinking Universe (New Born B-side)
One of the left-behind tracks to come from Origin Of Symmetry and though its quite a few years old I can still imagine this being on Black Holes And Revelations. Like Forced In it starts with a appregiating guitar riff but swiftly evolves into a faster, more melodic, and an all around better song, it's much easier to listen to and sounds much more like the Muse we've come to know and love. Lyrically Bellamy is still on top form even with b-sides.
“Cast your eye tears on me
And I'll show you what you really need
Give too much attention
And I'll reflect your imperfections
Can't you see that it's over?
Because you’re the god of a shrinking universe
Now there’s nothing left to die for
So don't struggle to recognise
Now the cruelly heart-felt suicide”
Along with the lyrics the whole song feels despairing, like the diary of someone who no longer holds value in living. In my opinion I can't see why this is a B-side. It was recorded during the recording of Origin and I'd choose this over Microcuts any day. Its musically great, the lyrics are fantastic and you can listen to the vocals without getting a headache, which is more than can be said for Microcuts
Recess (Unintended B-side)
As I said this CD holds many ideas that would go on to be perfected and used in later albums but with this track it’s less of an idea and more a whole song. It’s basically a better version of Screenager. At one point Bellamy plays exactly the same guitar riff that he does on Screenager. Nearly everything about this track sounds like the verse of Screenager. It short, they’re identical. Accept for one thing, Recess is better. But bearing in mind that Screenager wasn’t too good a song to start with Recess isn’t that good either. Lyrically it’s nothing to yell about and the same story applies to the musical side of this song. While it’s an OK track and its obvious why Recess was a B-side.
Yes Please (Sunburn B-side)
And now we come to possibly the worst track on here. And really there are only two things to this track. The first being a boring, uninspired, repetitive guitar riff. While some metal heads may like it I absolutely hate it. Apart from the chorus it’s the only riff on here and makes you wonder why they even bothered recording it in the first place. The second are the equally stupid and boring. Not at one point can you make out what Bellamy is actually saying as they’re whispered and covered in some kind of distortion. Furthermore the lyrics are terrible. After looking for them on the web and hoping that they’d be amazing so to redeem this track, I found that actually they’re as bad as the song it’s self. Like Recess it’s understandable why this is a B-side.
Map Of Your Head (New Born B-side)
One thing Muse can do well is swap from mosh-happy guitar anthems (Assassin, Stockholm Syndrome) to slow melodic ballads (Soldiers Poem, Unintended) with relative ease and that’s what they’ve done here. As the main melodic instrument is a mandolin the song has a Hawaiian feel to it, along with the slow drum beat it quickly develops into a smooth, free flowing ballad of a song. Yet again Bellamy is on top form with his lyrics, although they’re nonsensical, their tale of someone who’s misunderstood by current technology contrasts perfectly with the smooth charming feel of the song. Why this is a B-side I’ve no idea as it’s an undoubtedly fantastic song that’s far superior to some of the songs off Origin Of Symmetry.
Nature_1 (Plug In Baby B-side)
One of the things I noticed with Black Holes And Revelations is that many of its songs have a Spanish influence on them, (City Of Delusion, Hoodoo) but that idea is also here. The quick, jumpy acoustic riff opens the song and keeps the forward momentum of the song going. Dominic Howard is the most outshined member of Muse but the drumming on this track is simply stunning. The quick, syncopated riff holds the beat of the song together and stops the track becoming repetitive. Yet again Bellamy has written some great lyrics, his tale of an addiction fit the dark foreboding nature of the song perfectly.
Shine Acoustic (Hyper Music/Feeling Good B-side)
One of the reasons I like B-sides is because they give an insight to the more experimental side of a band and along with Forced In this is the most experimental song on here. The whole track is played with a backing track of rain and thunder which I love seeing as the track is a mellow, chilled out affair. The minor chord progression of the song greatly suits Bellamy’s sombre lyrics.
Who cares for the life we earned?
Someone sold all the truth you yearned
Remember when you used to shine
And had no fear or sense of time
When it creeps up on you
You can cry now there’s nothing to feel
No ones noticed our loneliness
Remember when you used to tease
And made us scream in eternal time
I believe that you’d always be there
And you promised a life with no fear
Please don’t break my ideas
And say what thing would always be real
I was the one and only
Take me back again
Like the lyrics the whole song feels sad and the continual rain in the back ground help create a feeling of disappointment which even the happy sounding keyboard effects can’t suppress. Like Forced In, Shine is a nice little experimental venture that gives a nice break from the polished hits.
Ashamed (Sunburn B-side)
Ahhhh finally, a rock song. And it’s instantly recognisable as a Showbiz B-side, distorted lyrics, multiple effects, crunchy sound guitars etc. A riff that sounds like a mix of Hyper Music and Citizen Erased starts the song soon to be joined by Howard’s crashing drums and Wholstenholme’s pounding bass line. Lyrically though it’s pretty simple, like the title suggests it’s about someone or something that has a big secret which henceforth makes him ashamed!! Quite simple really. But complexity does not a rock song make and makes this track great is the central riff that keeps it going. Weather its Bellamy’s guitar riff that’s laying it down with gusto or Wholstenholme who’s bashing out the riff with a fat heavy bass sound it’s still holding the song together and keeps it moving forward.
The Gallery (Bliss B-side)
This I believe is Muse’s only instrumental and while Bellamy does have a great voice this does give him a great chance to let his music do the talking. His piano riffs and keyboard licks are layered all over the track while his swirling guitar parts fade in and out of the piece. This track I’m sure could be one of Muse’s most relaxed song except for the fact that the drums are distorted, giving a nice contrast from the warm synth parts and stops the tracks from sounding too normal. As this is the only instrumental I’ve heard by them I can’t say if it’s their best but it’s still a great little ditty.
Hyper Chondriac Music (Bliss B-side)
Now for the final song on this CD and what a great track it is, a slower, more foreboding version of the well known Hyper Music. All the harsh sounding guitars have gone and are replaced with gentle acoustic motifs. Bellamy’s vocals are steeped in reverb which adds to the dark nature of the song. Halfway through drums and bass join along with a powerful but subtle distorted guitar. The swirling guitar effects and Bellamy’s echoing vocals all add to the mysterious feel of this beauty of a song. While it’s slower and some Muse fans might not like it, this track is without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best songs out of this whole collection, and maybe, just possibly, it’s better than Hyper Music.
While the songs on here might take a few listens to get used to, this CD still gives a great insight to what Muse’s more trippy side is and yes I know there are some god-awful tracks on here that aren’t worth even a cautionary listen but there are way more fantastic tracks that are worthy of repeated listens and lots of praise.
CD2 : Live concert recorded on October 28/29 2001 at “Le Zenith” in Paris
The thing Muse are famous for is being among the best stage acts this world has seen, their energy and love for what they're has lead to some mind blowing performances. So far their latest tour latest has been the most explosive and energetic thing ever performed by a group so I don’t envy the chap who’s job it is to convey that energy and spontaneity onto a CD, but who ever does it is obviously very good at his job. The decision to leave out the big hits and leave in the fan favourites was a risky but seemingly good idea. The energetic Dead Star kicks off the show with aplomb, effectively carries the audience into another dimension. The set list then runs through the bigger names such as Citizen Erased and Megalomania, playing each with passion and care, the audience screaming for more while the trio play the hell out of their instruments and blowing out the minds of everyone there. The show then ends with the bombastic trio of In Your World, Muscle Museum and Agitated for the encore, leaving the audience slightly confused but utterly flabbergasted.
Furthermore, the trio are always spot on with whatever they’re playing. Be it keyboard and guitar, Bellamy never strikes a wrong note and is forever in time at the same time as delivering a fantastic vocal performance. His particular highlights would be the haunting piano solo in Space Dementia and the pitch perfect guitar fills in Muscle Museum. Chris Wholstenholme’s bass parts are never over powered by any of the other instruments and underpin the rhythm of each song with perfection. Even though it’s deathly simple, the ominous bass line at the beginning of Megalomania sends shivers down my spine every time I listen to it. Even the most outshined member of the band, Dominic Howard plays to the highest of his ability even after 50 minutes of non stop drumming he still pulls of the beat of each track and holds together the rhythm of the performance perfectly. His best moment would be, the furious, fast paced drumming in the chorus of Darkshines.
One of the things that stood out to me upon first listen of this is that even though the gig has been put together from two different shows and has had near half the songs taken out it still flows like it’s the original thing. The songs are crystal clear and not at one point do any of the instruments over whelm each over. The vocals, guitars and drums have all perfectly remixed so to sound as good as possible but never sound like they’ve ever been touched since the performance.
But one thing that does bug me is the amount of quality songs that have been taken out of the CD. Great live tracks such as Newborn, Sunburn and Plug In Baby have all been taken out. Why? I can’t see how they’d detract from the listening experience in anyway. Even lesser known beauties like Unintended and Cave have been canned. And yet again I can’t think of how they’d make listening to the CD any worse. I can see why some track have been left out, I can gladly do without Uno as its quite a terrible track but why you must wonder, could any find a good reason for Screenager being a better listen than lets say… Unintended, or Bliss? So while this track is a joy to listen to it still bugs me thinking of how much better it could have been.
But for all its disadvantages, this CD is still a fantastic insight into the weird world that is Muse’s live performance.
So what is my view on this collection? Amazing, Wonderful, Original, And Mind-Blowing. They’re some of the many phrases that can describe this album. The collection of B-sides is a fantastic little idea as they give a great look into the less polished side of Muse. The live performance though is something godly. Even though some sound stuff has been taken out its still well worth looking into if you enjoy Muse’s live stuff.