Review Summary: Amidst a sea of glamour and fame, Muse implodes with this directionless, self-indulgent record.
Expectations can be a harrowing experience for any band. Like a storm cloud gathering rain, anticipation for Muse’s fifth LP The Resistance
collected with all the haste and abundance of a band that had truly stolen the spotlight of the rock n’ roll genre. Showbiz
whet our appetites, Origin of Symmetry
knocked us off our feet, and Black Holes and Revelations
expanded/divided our appreciation for what has become one of the hottest bands of the 2000’s. The one thing that all of these albums had in common was their ability to capture the attention of listeners with a combination of technical instrumental skill, catchy choruses, and unique vocals. Each album brought something new to Muse’s sonic palette, and as the “perfect storm” analogy may suggest, expectations for The Resistance
grew wildly out of control. Of course, Muse were hardly the victims as they furthered the cause by uploading “Project Eurasia” to their twitter account and slowly revealed “United States of Eurasia”, thirty seconds at a time. Also, rumors of a three part, fifteen-minute movement to close out the album caused a number of people to speculate that Muse’s most ambitious album was forthcoming. With vast expectations and high hopes abound, everything finally came crashing down in front of a worldwide audience.
is essentially a grandiose, symphonic, full-blown attempt at creating a magnum opus. Whereas Muse’s over-the-top nature normally serves to their benefit, this time there is simply not enough quality material to back up the massive hype. Sure, there are a few catchy numbers such as “Uprising” and “Undisclosed Desires”, but even they severely pale in comparison to past hits such as “Plug in Baby” and “Time is Running Out.” In addition, Muse fails to back these songs up with anything remotely interesting from an instrumental perspective. From the extremely basic drum beats of the aforementioned “Uprising” to the near absence of anything resembling a guitar riff over the course of the entire album, it is clear that Muse has taken a tremendous step back instrumentally. Black Holes and Revelations
hinted at a movement in the mainstream direction, but even the most wildly pessimistic fans could not have anticipated the sheer lack of ingenuity present on The Resistance
Perhaps the most disappointing facet of the entire album is the unattained potential of the “Exogenesis” movement. Here Matthew Bellamy, a skilled guitarist and
pianist, has just over twelve minutes to essentially do whatever he wants. Instead of providing us with the shredding guitar solos and the moving classical piano we have come to expect, he manages to drown himself out with overused synthesizers and a complete symphony. The second stage of Exogenesis, “Cross-Pollination”, comes closest to realizing the song’s uncapped potential, with a relatively interesting piano introduction and a compelling chorus: Spread, our codes to the stars, you must rescue us all
. The lyrics seem to be both a warning and a plea to future generations who will inherit the troubled world that we have created for them. However, this moment is not enough to save the likes of the entire “Exogenesis”, which doesn’t transition as smoothly or function together as well as a symphony should. In fact, this triplet of songs serve as a microcosm of The Resistance
, with small moments of brilliance that are heavily outweighed by the album’s overproduction and shallow feel.
In addition to the lack of memorable moments and overall instrumental ineptitude, Muse finally finds themselves without creative direction. On past works, there was always a combination of shining musical craftsmanship and an overriding concept that made the album truly feel like a journey. Almost as if to deliberately provide contrast, The Resistance
seems to bounce from song to song, with no evidence of album unity or artistic ambition. In fact, they seem to borrow more than they invent, wearing their Queen and Chopin influences on their sleeve in “United States of Eurasia.” Although the gentle vocals and light piano notes initially create quite the calming effect, the second half of the song plummets laughably, with identical-to-Queen chorus shouts of Eurasia! Sia! Sia! Sia!
. “Guiding Light” offers up a bland imitation of Black Holes and Revelations
’ “Invincible”, while “MK Ultra” suffers from nauseatingly basic drumming and guitar work. “I Belong To You / Mon Coeur S’ouvre A Ta Voix”, marks an all-time low for the band, complete with lyrics in French and a cheesy 80’s-sounding piano sequence. The song aims to be Muse’s first epic love song, but it fails on all levels ranging from a lack of catchiness to ridiculous lyrics:
Then she attacks me like a Leo
When my heart is split like Rio
But, I assure you my debts are real
I can’t find the words to say
When I’m confused
I’ve travelled half the world to say
You are my mu
One of the few quality standout moments on The Resistance
comes in the form of “Unnatural Selection”, whose blazing guitar riffs and purposeful falsetto arrive like a breath of fresh air to old-school Muse fans who were forced to suffer through the first five tracks. Without this song, many new fans would never see the Absolution
side of Muse that is ever present throughout the song’s six minutes and fifty-five seconds. The rest of the album, unfortunately, can be described as catchy at best. Even when it succeeds to provide fun moments (such as “Uprising”), the technical backing to these tracks are plainly bad by Muse’s standards.
All in all, The Resistance
presents us with crystal clear production and superbly polished songs, but very little substance. There are a few moments that save it from complete futility, but it is still a colossal disappointment for the older breed of fans who enjoyed the likes of Absolution
and Origin of Symmetry
. To be fair, even the greatest artists of all time have had a regrettable moment. Only time will tell if this is Muse’s one regret, or the start of an overall decline. But for now, The Resistance
stands as an unsightly scar on Muse’s otherwise superb discography.