Most of us have come to know the eccentric powerhouse from England as the musical form of going over the top and entering and exiting in dramatic fashion. 2004's Absolution presented this in a very accessible package, filling the record to the brim with hooks and pop sensibilities. The release of Black Holes and Revelations gained the band many new fans and lost many old ones with its increased focus on pop and experimentation, which made a good portion of us miss the dark and apocalyptic nature of Absolution. Somewhere deep within the 2001 opus Origin of Symmetry, we're taken back to the dark days (albeit in a very different way). Be warned: Venture into this world of insane energy with caution.
Haunting piano creeps along as the bass joins in for the beginning of “New Born”, but it’s not long before it explodes with a meaty riff and blasts from all band members. What makes this so wonderful is it’s heavy without being heavy, and intense without being intense; there’s no ridiculously distorted guitars, no harsh vocals, and nothing in-your-face about it. There doesn’t have to be; the copious amount of energy being exuded from this explosion speaks for itself, and Matthew Bellamy’s falsetto is as dramatic and ridiculous as ever. Or is it? It’s not until you get to the beastly “Micro Cuts” that you witness the vocal pitch closest to shattering glass without shattering glass that will ever grace your ears. It’s all on top of an immensely dense sound created with guitar and synth, making for an almost scary effect. Oh wait, it’s not scary compared to the darkest piano-driven piece you’ll hear in years in “Space Dementia”. The (once again) over-the-top vocal performance by Bellamy in the song can really rub some the wrong way, but this record doesn’t exactly have a friendly demeanor in general. You’ll likely go through feelings of being threatened, uncomfortable, claustrophobic and if you’re really paying attention, comatose before the album ends. But that’s only if you skip the wonderfully uplifting “Bliss” or the powerful and hard-hitting “Hyper Music”.
Not all of Origin is hard to stomach though. Only one listen of the relentlessly catchy riff of “Plug In Baby” will most definitely not quench your thirst; it’s no wonder the riff has been in numerous top 10 and 50 lists. By the time the rest of the band joins in, it’s too late to deny any infiltration the song has made on your brain; an extremely energetic blast overtakes you once again, much like “New Born” did. The cover of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” may seem out of place at first, but it’s hard not to welcome the jazzy and upbeat number after being at the mercy of the trance-like “Darkshines”. You’re not in the clouds for long, though, as the bleakness and darkness makes a vengeful return in the form of “Megalomania”; its spiraling concoction of church organs and synth ensure that the listener doesn't escape without a finale, and what a climax it is. With all of the emotions and moods Origin throws at you, none of them even touch the effectiveness of the album's centerpiece and opus “Citizen Erased”; Bellamy showcases all of his talents here, switching between guitar and piano as the song alternates between its barbaric main riff and its meandering calm sections. Oh yeah, then there’s the guitar solo comprised of the spacey sounds that season the entire album, in addition to the shredding of course.
My first few bouts with Origin left me a little indifferent, mostly because I didn’t want to take the effort this album infinitely requires for you to have any idea how you feel about it. There’s simply too many moods and adjectives that could describe this record to call the whole thing one or two things. Every single song brings something new and fresh, both from the last song, and all of music in general. I still haven’t heard anything like this album, not even from the same band. Every song here hits you in a different place and it makes me happy to be able to say every track has its own place. A lot of people consider "Screenager" to be the worst song, but really it's just the least awesome. This acoustic number sort of hits your blind side because it's so strange, but is there anything about this record that isn't strange?
One thing’s for sure: this is a piece of music that reaches into the deepest unexplored corners of your conscience and thoroughly challenges them. Many records do that, but what warrants this one a special place is its ability to also extract positive emotions when there is absolutely no reason for it; you’d think a record as dark and menacing as this one wouldn’t have any soft spots, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. They say energy is the key to the universe, and after getting intimately familiar with Origin, I have come out of it completely obliterated. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Great review, I disagree though. While it's probably Muse's best album, it feels really samey as I listen through, and even boring in parts. New Born, Bliss and Citizen Erased are really good, but Space Dementia has very little going for it, especially in the vocals. I find Screenager in no way captivating, and by the time the album reaches the last track, I'm bored. However, there are still loads of great moments, so I'd give it a 4 for generally being an excellent album.
Review sucks man...naw...but really...
I still just can't completely get into Muse for the most part. There are a few songs from each CD that I like a lot but the rest of the songs just don't click with me for whatever reason. That said, Bliss and Plug In Baby are awesome tracks...
fireabove - I think the reason this album doesn't get negative reviews is cos of the Radiohead fans (like myself) going 'OMGGGGGG it sounds like Radiohead so it's amazing!' and then getting bored with the next 2 albums cos they don't sound as much like Radiohead. That, and it's not a bad album (but it can get boring, I agree).
What is with the Radiohead comparisons? I mean, they had a Radiohead influence for a couple songs on Showbiz. THATS IT. I'm sick of how everyone alternative rock band from the UK is called a Radiohead clone.
Anyway, I love this record, its my favourite of all time. Although, i'm a little bit biased because Muse is my favourite band. I'll admit, though, that tracks 8-10 arent as good as the first 7. But Megalomania picks things back up, and to be honest the lesser tracks here are still awesome. Although they should have substituted Futurism for Screenager or Feeling Good.
Bleak123 - You die for that comment
Burning_October - Why is it then that whenever I play ANY of their songs to anybody, the person who I'm playing it to says 'hey, that reminds me of Radiohead' or 'Oh yeah, that sounds like Radiohead'? They take HUGE amounts of Radiohead influence, particularly on this album and Showbiz. I can't think of a single other UK alternative rock band that is consistently called a Radiohead clone. Bloc Party? No. Coldplay? No, though many say they take INFLUENCE from Radiohead. Kaiser Chiefs? No. Foals? No. It's just Muse, and with good reason. I agree, they aren't Radiohead clones, but particularly in the vocal department, Radiohead influence can be seen everywhere.
Don't take it to heart, I'm not insulting you, or even them really, but they do sound like Radiohead.