Review Summary: Muse's biggest album by no means equates to their best.
The world needs to stop believing in Matthew James Bellamy.
The past six years have seen Bellamy and his band, Muse, transmogrify from a respectable alt-rock group on the brink of something big into what can only be described as a juggernaut of Europe’s music scene. Nearly half a million MySpace friends, a whopping 116 million plays on Last.FM (and counting), appearances on big movie soundtracks, the ability to fill British and Australian stadiums in a snap…Muse are kind of a big deal these days.
Trouble is, though, it’s not really working out in their favour.
Yes, even their first two albums (1999’s Showbiz
and their piece de resistance
, pardon the pun, 2001’s Origin of Symmetry
) painted the picture of a band aiming for a future in the stars. 2003’s Absolution
expanded upon this even further. But by the time the band had actually launched themselves into the galaxy on 2006’s Black Holes and Revelations
, they had completely forgotten just what had inspired them to do so in the first place. As a result, the album was an inconsistent effort, with Bellamy’s ever-expanding messiah complex protruding from several nooks and crannies. Even so, the band were trying new things and it was by no means a bad record.
Sadly, there are no more excuses. There is nothing for Bellamy and co. to hide behind on The Resistance
. Muse have made the complete transformation into stadium rock of the most symphonic (read: over-indulgent) kind, and there is no turning back. This is an album that is all head and no heart – a contrived quasi-concept release that will keep the band at the very top of their game but strip them of all their credibility in the process.
Those sweeping string arrangements, those thickly-layered harmonies, that atmospheric piano and warbling synthesizer…sure, it’s all very pretty, and incredibly well produced. Still, what does it all mean? Over the course of the entire record, every excess layer of instrumentation proves to serve little more purpose than gratuity. And not even in a fun over-the-top way in the spirit of A Night at the Opera
-era Queen (a band who have served as more than a passing influence here, especially on the bombastic “United States of Eurasia”). More in a “look at what we can afford”, highly pretentious way that ultimately becomes uncomfortable and irritating to listen to.
That’s not even mentioning how much of the talent and precision that the rhythm section of this band has is lost in translation here. The title track sees drummer Dom Howard pushed to the back of the mix as opposed to his usual driving-force style of drumming, and he’s essentially a ghost on single Undisclosed Desires which follows it. Bassist Chris Wolstenholme, a fantastic musician in his own right, fares slightly better in terms of actually being heard amidst the pomposity – but not by a lot. As a matter of fact, his most distinctive moments on the record are where everything else stops and he can clearly be heard; notably in admittedly-catchy opener “Uprising” where the track breaks down in a vein similar to Battles’ warped rock shuffle “Atlas”. Given how much these two have contributed to the sound of Muse in the past, it’s really quite a shame they are passed up in favour of orchestras, grand piano, singing in French and, at one point, the sound of an aeroplane flying overhead. No joke.
Much like Black Holes
, Bellamy’s lyrics take on the character of a romantic soldier who doesn’t want to be a part of the science-fiction war that is taking place. Most of the tracks deal with dreaming of a greater tomorrow, insisting that “they” (whoever They may be) will not win or defeat “us” (whoever We may be) and just genuinely preening about whilst spouting pseudo-inspirational tripe like “Love is our resistance!” (“Resistance”) and “You are my guiding light!” (“Guiding Light”, which serves as this album’s hugely cheesy sequel to Black Holes
’ “Invincible”). Not to mention the kind of rhyming that would make 21st Century Breakdown
-era Billie Joe Armstrong blush with lines like “The fat cats had a heart attack” from “Uprising”. Lyrically, the entire affair feels like an afterthought
The tracks that follow the KISS principle to the core (keep it simple, stupid) end up succeeding the most. “Unnatural Selection” could have been on the cutting floor of Absolution
, with some stellar guitar and an energetic chorus – despite needing some editing near its end, it’s arguably the best track here. Its successor, “MK Ultra”, streamlines the entire album’s melodrama into a far more accessible and enjoyable fashion. Sadly, this momentary joy does not last – try making it through the final three tracks (the “Exogenesis Symphony”) without once uttering the phrase “What wankers”.
is going to be huge. Magazines will rave, sales will skyrocket, even more stadiums will be filled. However, more now than ever will this success be undeserved – whatever Pink Floyd-lite concept Bellamy comes up with next, it’s going to take a lot to bring them back from this effort. Resistance is exactly what is needed to bring these three back down to earth.