Review Summary: "While Black Holes and Revelations took the pace down a couple of notches, The Resistance comes perilously close to coming to a screeching halt."
It's probably not unfair to state that Muse are now a firm part of the UK's musical furniture. From début album, Showbiz being released to a chorus of “You're just ripping off Radiohead
” from the UK's music press - which now falls over itself to praise them at every turn - through the storming Origin of Symmetry and Absolution, before taking a change of pace and a slight change of direction with 2006's Black Holes and Revelations. However, while Black Holes and Revelations took the pace down a couple of notches, The Resistance
comes perilously close to coming to a screeching halt.
Gone for the most part is Matt Bellamy's infectious guitar and piano work which so defined previous releases – anyone who grew up in what felt like a rather barren musical landscape in the early noughties will be able to remember the spider-like lead guitar in Origin of Symmetry's Plug in Baby
, or the piano solo from Absolution's Butterflies & Hurricanes
which was so very unlike anything else in “Alt Rock” circles at the time. In comparison, The Resistance
, by and large, feels rather vanilla. That which in the past would have been a little flourish on the piano, has in some places been replaced with rather anaemic synth-y plucked strings. A simple but relentless riff, replaced with a riff that plods along but never really goes
anywhere. For a band which always had such energy, this is somewhat disconcerting.
This is compounded by a rather uncharacteristic lull in the band's rhythm section. While in the past, the rhythm section of Dom Howard on drums and Chris Wolstenholme on bass has proven to be the solid spine to what could perhaps be described as the flailing of Bellamy's musical limbs, The Resistance
suffers from a lack of that same solidity. Wolstenholme missed recording time due to personal problems, and it could be argued that there are moments where it's clear that his mind wasn't entirely on the job at hand. It's these very same moments where Howard also struggles, leaving some songs on the album to uncharacteristically meander without any real direction. A rather unfortunate side-effect of this is the fact that without the same fire to cover it, the band go from taking inspiration from different sources to ripping them off wholesale. From Ultravox to U2; Billy Idol to Queen, Blondie to the Doctor Who theme tune, all of which have had unnecessary and at times excessive amounts of pomp and bombast shoehorned in.
That's not to say that the entire thing is a mess though. While the crawling guitar work is gone for the most part, it does re-appear occasionally in fits and starts. There are
points where Bellamy, Howard and Wolstenholme all click together, and when they crop up, the hyperbolic praise that surrounds Muse at times does seem almost justified. And then there's the Exogenesis symphony, which is arguably the jewel in the album's crown – albeit a roughly cut ruby instead of a brilliantly cut diamond – which showcase's Bellamy's budding orchestral composition abilities. It isn't perfect, but as a suite of music, it's certainly not bad.
In a way, the Exogenesis symphony possibly encapsulates what the problem with The Resistance
is. It's by no means a terrible album, but it fails to live up to the extraordinarily high standard which Muse have set for themselves with their past work, and in truth, to say that a Muse album "isn't bad” isn't entirely complementary – in fact, it's closer to damning with faint praise.