MUSE – The Resistance (Warner)

Muse can pretty much do no wrong in my book, but it is always with some trepidation that you approach a new album, as one of these days Matt Bellamy is going to go just that little bit too far and descend into total madness. Luckily this is not the album where that happens, and despite being a sort of concept album about the taking over of our lives by the state, it does contain some cracking tunes, delivered in the band’s now expected bombastic style. ‘Uprising’ was leaked as a taster for the album, and it is a pretty representative example of the sound, with its stomping glam-rock beat and interjections of synth and guitar, it is Muse at their best. ‘Resistance’ starts with some ghostly vocal effects and a stately piano intro, before the rest of the band join in for the chorus, and Dom Howard’s drum fills on the second verse give it a threatening feel, perfectly in keeping with the lyrics of standing up to oppression. ‘Undisclosed Desires’ is something of a diversion for the group, sounding like they are trying to break into the R&B scene with its staccato strings and prominent basslines, and while it is OK it is not the Muse that we know and love. ‘United States Of Eurasia’ is more like it, starting slowly with piano, strings and a subdued Bellamy vocal before exploding in an eruption of sound that reminds me strangely of Queen. From then on it is the histrionic Muse of old, with thundering piano, massed vocal harmonies and screeching guitar, before it all winds down and ends with Frederic Chopin’s ‘Nocturne In E Flat Major’ overlaid with sound effects of jet fighters! This is what we except from Muse! After that, ‘Guiding Light’ sounds almost normal, but it does have some great drumming from Howard and a heavy metal guitar solo from Bellamy all helping to make it a classic power ballad. ‘Unnatural Selection’ is just brilliant, from its fantastic riff to the soaring Bellamy vocals, this is why I love this band. It may sound totally bonkers but it is the sort of thing that only Muse can pull off, and for me is the highlight of the album. ‘MK Ultra’, on the other hand, harks back to Radiohead-lite days, and while they try to pull it back at the end with some heavy riffing it somehow fails to convince. ‘I Belong To You’ is a piano-led mix of pop and prog, and that combination has seldom worked. It doesn’t help to have a slow section sung in French before the strings appear at the end to herald in a clarinet solo. There’s bonkers, and then there is just plain bonkers. The finale of the album is the three part ‘Exogensis : Symphony’, which is the piece that everybody has been talking about. Based on an idea that Bellamy has had for years that the human race originated from outer space and it is now time to organise an exodus from this planet to repopulate the stars, it would need huge themes to do justice to the premise. Bellamy’s answer to this is to write massive string arrangements and use them as a basis for the band to work around, while interjecting large chunks of classical piano and some trade-mark riffs. On the whole I suppose it works, and bearing in mind that it is supposed to be a symphony then there is some excuse for the classical overtones, but I guess I was expecting something more along the line of another ‘Knights Of Cydonia’, and so couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed. Repeated listens have improved it no end, but that initial feeling will always colour my view of this piece. So on the whole, another success for the band. A couple of clunkers, but few bands make perfect albums, and there is enough great stuff on here to mean that it will continue to get played until the next one comes along.
Unnatural Selection