“The Resistance” – ‘Muse’ [Joint Review]
This is the big-one folks, it’s been highly anticipated for the past month, eagerly hunted for in countless sites; links scoured, devoured, files corrupted, songs mis-spelled, missing altogether. And, finally, after so many long weeks, ‘Highly Evolved’ has managed to get its grubby hands on “The Resistance” by pioneers ‘Muse’. We thought we’d make it up to everyone by making sure our missed Joint Review last Sunday was followed by an exceptional masterpiece. I have to admit, this time our roles might be reversed as my counterpart takes the opposition and I take the for, in this He-Man:
“BATTLE… FOR… THE UNIVERSE!”
Officially, it isn’t a first for ‘Highly Evolved‘s’ Joint Reviews, where we’ve had a really strong disagreement on a band. The last time we had a ‘minor difference’ of opinion was back a few months ago when my partner thought he’d harmlessly mention an album called “Further Complications” by an insufferable man called ‘Jarvis Cocker’. Such was the beginning of the end, and so the debate continues. We have accepted this ‘minor difference’ of opinion as simply a ‘minor difference’ in musical-tastes, despite the general commonalities we both share. Some weeks ago, my counterpart, Michael Hodder, approached me and we’d struck up the usual conversation:
“… So, any music news lately?” I’d ask inquisitively, childishly.
Of course there was music news, there’s always music news, but: “… ‘Muse’ is set to release their new album “The Resistance” in September…”
“Oh, are they now?” I’d scanned my memory; that’s right, ‘Muse’, some experimental-indie band, not too shabby.
“… Yeah, but from their singles, I don’t think it’s going to turn out too well – I don’t think you’ll like it, but it’ll give us both an opportunity to…” – and sorry if I quote this directly, my friend, but it’s hilarious – “… ‘bagg-the-shit-out-of-them.”
A smile overwhelmed my face: so, fresh meat, then?
The weeks followed, we’d maintained a steady flow of reviews, still no sign of an early-leak on part with ‘Muse’, and I’d decided to wait until the full release of the album before I made any rash, pre-judgemental views on the album from its singles. Just this week, we came into possession of the album’s entirety, and after a solid three-hours of listening, with four full play-throughs, we met as usual, on the field.
“… The first half of the album is like listening to ‘Queen’, while the orchestral-overture is a mixture between ‘Sigur Ros’ and ‘Beethoven’, and I know they’re not great metaphors – you either liked it or you hated it,” he’d started.
“… Well, as for the ‘Queen’ sound-alike, to be honest, I really only heard it in two tracks, whereas I thought the orchestral-overtures weren’t anything particularly special. I enjoyed “Exogenesis Symphony Pt 3”, and I was delighted with “Undisclosed Desires”, but it’s what I’d expect from ‘Muse’, and the album was overall pleasant. I’d probably give it a 4.5-outta-5,” I’d splurged; a verbal-vomit.
“Hmm… That’s interesting. I’d probably give it a 4, when it comes down to it,” he’d replied.
And that was that. Friday came and went, and here we are…
‘Muse’ has been one of those rare indie/experimental-pioneers, like my favourites, ‘The Killers’, who have unequivocally pushed any and all boundaries when it comes to musical composition. Competition between indie bands is fiercely underestimated, though it appears primarily as a ‘mongrel-genre’, willing to accept any and all bands who might share likeness to the settlers of its original incarnation, bands with only a hint of experimental, alternative or rock, went unchallenged as they poisoned its ranks. Bands like ‘The Killers’ made a name for themselves with band-specific indicators, like key-and-tempo shifts, in their music, whereas ‘Muse’ made damn-well sure they were individual by including the elements of metal, experimental – and although not overly prominent – punk.
Over-strung guitar/bass and power-percussion combined with standardised-rhythms and vocalisation make the basis for ‘Muse’, and while lyrically “The Resistance” doesn’t contain much epic-notable material, ‘Muse’ remains up there with the best of them. There’s not much here which ‘Muse’ fans will find different from their past albums “Black Holes And Revelations”, or “Origins Of Symmetry”. ‘Muse’ were playing with some interesting elements in “OOS”, which come through more prominently in “The Resistance”, less-so in “BHAR” – I felt that “OOS” had some interesting experimental flaunts which were overshadowed by the heavy metal aspect of their music – at times, there would be perfect thirty-second-sublime moments where everything came together, and because of this ephemeral nature, they disappeared and were swallowed up in a tidal wave of noise.
Personally, I think ‘Muse’ has found a balance between soft and loud in “The Resistance” where they were otherwise at full-bore consistently throughout. “OOS” countered this extremity by juxtaposing it’s metal/experimental with soft/delicate. I know my counterpart is a lover of heavy just as he is of experimental, and on a subliminal level, this could be the underlying reason for his – and I wouldn’t say ‘dislike’ – more ‘hesitant’ judgement overall of “The Resistance“. That, and ‘Muse’s’ uncanny likeness to ‘Queen’, appearing in such cases as tracks: “United States Of Eurasia (+Collateral Damage)”, and “Guiding Light”. When I mention ‘Queen’, it’s the over-flaunt of guitar – which I personally don’t mind – and the girlish-high vocalisation that has been stereotypically ‘Freddie Mercury’s’ ever since his early passing.
Thematically, the album makes a number of lyrical references to ‘1984’ , ‘George Orwell’s’ infamous totalitarian novel depicting fascism and dictatorship at its most extreme. Personally, we both enjoyed this novel a great deal, and it’s inclusion within the album on a whole works well with the idea of ‘resistance’. Tracks are appropriately titled, so it seems a lot of effort went into the construction of the album. With eleven mind-blowing tracks averaging at the five-minute-mark, the album goes for about a wholesome-hour, and this over-generous quantity makes for some fantastic listening.
And because I feel that this is an exceptional album, there remain a number of tracks which I would like to go through in greater detail. Though the album has it’s wholesome-half of typical ‘Muse’, it does contain the “critically acclaimed” three-track-triplet ‘Exogenesis Symphony’ which differs from the whole.
“The Resistance” opens with the appropriately-titled track “Uprising”, and you can expect to find the usual ‘Muse’ elements, with rock/experimental/indie guitar, typical percussion, and accompanying lyrics. It sets the scene, but it isn’t overly interesting.
“Resistance” follows, and this is where the fun begins. It opens with the drone/ambient hum of a distant, whining organ, and is kin to ‘The Dead Sea’s’ melodramatic ambience which floods the atmosphere with secondhand emotion. Piano erupts into full force, together with the ratta-tatt-tatt of drum: it’s easy to imagine the running of feet, or the assembly of an army, with these sounds, and the lyrics:
“Is our secret safe tonight, and are we out of sight, or will our world come tumbling down?*”
For those of you who are familiar with the premise of ‘1984’, the lyrics resonate strongly with the key-characters which the story revolves around, like:
“… love is our resistance…”
“Undisclosed Desires” is my personal favourite track, and that’s because it has this emphatic, infectious opening beat, together with sticatto-violin. When we approach the chorus, the percussion shifts and takes the odd-numbered beats. The vocals are the key here, they keep it all together, together with these delectable lyrics:
“I want to reconcile the values in your heart, I want to recognise your beauty’s not just a mask, I want to exorcise the demons from your past, I want to satisfy the undisclosed desires in your heart.*”
“United States Of Eurasia” is replete with ‘Queen’ overtures, and it’s like a combination of “We Are The Champions” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”. I personally love the facelift ‘Muse’ gives to my ‘Queen’ favourites, but for some, it’s too much. Not only does it have that “Freddie Mercury” sound to it, but it has the same high-pitched-electric-guitar as well. It’s up to you whether or not you think the song is a replica, but I’ll stay neutral in this argument. “Guiding Light” follows this same routine, less-so in the vocalisation, more-so in the guitar. It has that same 1-123-1 chorus-buildup ‘Queen’ used to build crescendo.
Onto ‘Exogenesis Symphony’, and it’s a three-part song. “Exogenesis Symphony Pt 1: Overture” has the elements that I think ‘Muse’ have neglected throughout their musical-career, it is a shining example for how they can be just as successful in this line of music as they can in the heavy. Personally, I don’t think too much of “… Pt 1: Overture” because it’s like listening to a reject-Hellboy trailor, with its ambient-violins and all. When the percussion explodes and ‘Muse’ finally appears, the high-pitched moan of “Matthew Bellamy’s” vocals is sublime, but it’s not enough to hold “… Pt 1: Overture” together.
“… Pt 2: Cross-Pollination“ sees a beginning with “The Resistance’s” consistent use of piano – it’s a bit melodramatic, with the ambience, and it isn’t much of a fitting track itself. Overall, symbolically, I suppose, it represents ‘flitting pollen’. Again, when ‘Muse’ does finally appear, it’s the vocalisation which is soy-perb.
And finally, “… Pt 3: Redemption” sees a sombre, softer beginning of piano. Like my counterpart said, ‘Exogenesis Symphony’ is like listening to a combination of ‘Sigur Ros’ and ‘Beethoven‘. We saw the ‘Sigur Ros’ influence prior with the mixture of instrumentation, but “… Pt 3: Redemption” sees an uncanny resemblance to ‘Beethoven’s’ “Moonlight Sonata”, and maybe that’s because it’s set like a waltz. A fitting end to a fine album.
Summarising: ‘Muse’ has finally left their comfort zone and is making music that is making controversy – and controversy means hype, hype means business, and business means money. I have thoroughly enjoyed the album overall, it has a general mix of old-and-new, with less emphasis on re-discovery and more emphasis on exploration. I can’t say it’s flawless, but I can say that it deserves a 4.5-outta-5.
Absolutely fantastic, well-worth a buy.
The Enantiomorphic God