Review Summary: You burn me from a distance, your brain needs some assistance.
There's something to be said for a band who can take a song performed on an electric instrument such as a guitar, and turn it into a song of classical beauty. Take Apocalyptica, for instance; the band got famous for their 1996 CD which featured four trained cellists playing Metallica covers. It's beautiful, of course; they take songs such as "Harvester of Sorrow" and "Creeping Death", and strip them down to their emotional cores to expose the terrifying fury and rage behind each and every one of Hetfield and Hammett's guitar riffs. Since then, they've gone on to record albums that showcase their ability to make heavy, yet beautiful original compositions and do covers that add a whole new level of emotion and depth.
Which is what irks me about Vitamin String Quartet. Their discography is full of covers that are not only void of emotion and/or depth, but they're bursting at the seams with gimmicks, and 90% of the time, these covers are songs that don't need an orchestral boost. And with Muse... well, Muse are a band whose music is already symphonic in nature. They have their own sound, which nobody can replicate, though many have tried. What's more impressive about Muse is this is a sound they managed to create with three
people (four perform it live). So furthermore, why would a quartet performing the songs be more impressive? In addition, this is the second
tribute to Muse they've done, and only half the songs on this are different than the previous. Obviously they updated it, so it includes songs from their much-controversial Resistance
era, but even still, when you've done one, that's enough, no these new covers fail to provide anything new to what was already there.
In fact, the covers sometimes sound as if they were written for a depressing BBC soap opera set in Victorian era London about a grandmother who's banging her granddaughter's daughter's boyfriend. "Uprising" would definitely not be out of place in the scene where the daughter finally confronts her, "Stockholm Syndrome" would be the scene where old granny has a brain aneurism of some sort and falls to her death down some elegant staircase, "Resistance" would be where they make love for the first time, etc. the music really is THAT melodramatic. It's almost like the quartet decided that they have the drama-meter set to 11- the songs are over the top to the point of being comical, almost. You get that feeling from "I Belong to You", which is so over the top, it even manages to surpass Apocalyptica in said field. Except, unlike the previous tribute album, there isn't even the saving grace (no pun intended) of an original composition inspired by Muse ("Saving Grace" from the previous tribute). Which goes to show you that they really are running out of creative juice if this is the best they can do for a second tribute, and if they can't even come up with a decent original. The only covers on this disc which manage to make it somewhat worthwhile are "New Born", which sounds very unique, and "Sing for Absolution", which is such a beautiful cover that it sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it. It almost sounds like the song was written for the strings. Muse's best ballad bar none gets a stunning and beautiful treatment in string form, and it thankfully doesn't disappoint.
VSQ are competent musicians, and it's evident in their playing; their arrangements do leave a lot to be desired, however. You can hear the talent firsthand; and you can tell that these guys have an extraordinary amount of technical skill. However, otherwise, they're full of gimmicks, the man gimmick here being, "Look, guys, we can play rock songs on strings!" Which may have been impressive years ago, but you can play a Muse song in an Ocarina of Time, even. It's a shame that musicians as talented as VSQ waste their talent on covers that, while are cool, aren't very impressive, and it's also very telling when you have hundreds upon hundreds of CDs of covers, which really don't have much to offer than... covers of rock songs on strings. So in this day and age where we rely on MP3 devices to get us through the day, I'd say download Sing for Absolution, maybe YouTube New Born, and skip the rest.