Review Summary: Everywhere at once and nowhere at all, The Resistance is epically, gloriously and magnificently harmless.
For her millions of fans, watching little Muse grow has been like watching the nurturing of a small child. From the first slow and unsteady steps of Showbiz
to her dates with destiny on Origin of Symmetry
, nearly every record has seen the band waltz forward with a pace that’s pretty much made them the biggest and coolest rock act on the face of the planet – and deservingly so. Even while their last effort, Black Holes And Revelations
was met with a mixed audience, it was still nevertheless a genuinely intriguing
album, one that proved Muse could step out of their comfort zone of silver lined, atmospheric alt-rock and explore a poppier terrain while still keeping things fresh. It definitely wasn’t a perfect record, but it marked a touchstone for a band that could have taken a world at its feet to any place it wanted to go. On record number five, the once baby Muse in question has most definitely grown up.
And she’s a devastating slut.
For one, she’s been just about everywhere, wearing her influences on her sleeve like badges on a parade ground, flirting with a hint of Queen (“United States Of Eurasia”), a touch of U2 (“Guiding Light”) and a dash of Chopin (um, everything). And sure, this in itself isn’t a bad thing, but thrown together as it is here, The Resistance is just a hell of a mess. Some might even call it an exercise in modesty, but you’ll find that
illusion shattered when it becomes apparent that this list of influences actually starts and ends with, well… Muse. See, there’s nothing unnatural at all about “Unnatural Selection”, a song that skims off “New Born” at its core, and it makes one wonder: Is the musical landscape so barren that Muse had to resort to ripping off Muse to get the point across? And really, what exactly
is Muse resisting here? After all, if the band has simply absorbed every musical idea that it’s come across to dive in headfirst without regard to where it landed, the case for Muse-as-whore seems to be rather unbreakable at this point.
More than just a patchwork though, The Resistance shines a light on exactly the sort of band Muse has always been. To wit, while the record comes with a baggage of accusations that frontman Matt Bellamy has finally overdosed on repeated shots of self-indulgence, this isn’t exactly true. In fact, The Resistance isn’t any more or less self-indulgent (or ‘soulless’ for that matter), than any one of Muse’s previous releases. Hell, with the band’s mix of future-edged rock and vast melodic lines stretching out into the furthest reaches of space, anyone who could credit Muse with any hint of subtlety clearly got their head bashed in as a child. What allowed the band to get away with it for so long though was simply the haze of jaw-dropping rollicks through a terrain of tightly focused tunes that clearly rocked out with a blistering sense of magnificent urgency. With that urgency gone, The Resistance finds a Muse exposed, doing what she’s always done, but this time with no cover to back it up.
And it’s not like it was an unpredictable breakdown – past releases have always seen Muse keeping a tight string of tension between Bellamy’s classical interests and the band's harder edged rock-outs, but The Resistance is simply stretched too far out between the vast distance of the two with nothing to keep it upright. Case in point here is the ambitious Exogenesis suite, a closing trilogy of sweeping rock symphonies that finds Bellamy belting out his sky pitched voice across a set of ghostly string arrangements, glacial piano runs and the occasional thundering drum roll. It’s all very pretty (maybe even exceptionally pretty) but like the rest of the album, it’s all so… toothless. Melodies and rhythms simply slip away under a mist of harmless, out-of-focus songwriting. It’s sad case of a record unwound, spread bare and exposed in all its sluttish glory, being everywhere at once and nowhere at all.
Even where the record shines – and it does at points – it really only does so against a background of blinding light from Muse’s back catalog, which is an unfortunate, but inescapable point. Sure, “Uprising” is catchy, but laid out side by side to the heroin-like addictiveness of tracks like “Time Is Running Out” and “Thoughts Of A Dying Atheist”, it withers away in comparison. Sure, you’ll rock out to the end of “Resistance” and sway ever so gently to “MK Ultra” and “Unnatural Selection”, but not even the classic apology of ‘its an evolution in sound!’ can hide the fact that The Resistance marks Muse’s worst album yet. Like every other journey the band has taken its audience on so far, this one’s still a ride, but the verdict’s in, and this tart is loose