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Album Review: The Resistance (Muse)

May 16, 2010

Since talking about Muse has been next to second nature in the routine deliberations of my mind, I think that it’s only natural for me to review their latest album, “The Resistance”, before moving on to discuss any other music-related issue that I’ve thought of or has been brought to my attention. I talk like a lawyer, I know.

1.  Uprising

This song was the answer to my prayers of listening to an intellectually stimulating rebellion/riot song from a band that I love.  In the past, Green Day has been my next to nothing alternative of listening to a hateful, anti-government “melody” (I guess we can call their songs melodic), but it’s always been a really bad song.  It’s either about hating the current president or discussing imperative issues to the nation, such as the healthcare reform debacle happening in the US.  But they never provide an ANSWER to the actual question.  This song does.  Muse takes a deliberately vindictive route to answering the state vs. people argument and pushes a powerful, almost overwhelming message to the listeners – “They will not degrade us.  We will be victorious.”  So long I have waited for a band to be both frank at telling people what their song is about and metaphorically intellectual in discussing the issue at hand instead of beating around the ever-growing bush.  Although I’m not a huge fan of the synthesizers throughout the song (I think it kind of ruins the feel of a riot/rebellion), it’s got a solid drum beat by Dom that’s coated beautifully by Matt’s almost overarching vocals which amalgamates with his hell-of-a-guitar tone and is finished off by the best distortion bass I’ve ever heard. (A-)

2.  Resistance

The first time I listened to this song, it reminded me of Yanni. No lie.  Naturally, this similarity of sounds got me interested in listening to this song over and over and over again.  And suffice to say, after 300 replays, it’s definitely the most “single-ish” song of the entire album.  Matt’s dramatic voice works PERFECTLY with the theme of the song (which is about 1984 if you didn’t know already) and Chris’s bassline in the pre-chorus (“It could be wrong, could be wrong…”) is definitely my favourite component of the entire song.  It’s seeing bands this creative with their individual instruments that makes me a happy man on a daily basis.  One criticism with this song – the radio edit. I’ve got a big problem with radio stations demanding that bands edit their songs – it doesn’t sound like the original anymore! It sounds like a radio-friendly, commercialied artifact that has no place in the band’s repertoire.  The original version won my heart over in an instant, but the radio stations need to learn their lesson of changing songs over for the alleged benefit of the listening public. (A)

3.  Undisclosed Desires

Brings me back to the good old times of “Suppermassive Black Hole”.  It’s a solid song that, again, shows the musical diversity of Muse.  I was actually watching “The Making of” the entire album and I remember the band joking about how slap bass is a secret fetish for all musicians.  When I first listened to this song and heard the slap bass, I became physically excited.  The only other contemporary (and popular) band that convincingly uses slap bass is RHCP, and when Muse started to become funky, naturally I was dancing silently.  Overall, this song reminds me of a talented ‘Nsync.  This band knows how to take a few chords, add some meaningful lyrics, and fuse together interesting, but equally distinctive, elements to make an awesome song. (B+)

4.  United States of Eurasia

One of the top 2 favourites of the album (for me, at least).  The beginning is classic drama from Muse – Matt’s almost cynical lyrics mixed in with a ballad-like piano structure shows the vulnerability of the song and it completely MORPHS into this middle-eastern, Egyptian-like trance encompassed by Bellamy’s strong-willed words constantly being drilled into your head (“And these wars, they can’t be won…does anyone know or care how they began?”)  The second half of the song is an obvious tribute/homage to Queen and I’m glad that the band did it.  According to a recent interview, the band started laughing uncontrollably after Matt started to yell out “Eura-SIA, SIA, SIA”.  Either through hilarity or genius, the piece is brilliant.  Again, a high point of the album that I can always listen to without fatigue. (A)

5.  Guiding Light

Sounds like U2.  First thing that popped into my head when I listened to it for the first time.  Although I’m not the biggest fan of this song because I feel like it’s out-of-place in the album, it’s still a good tune.   I loved the Queen-like guitar riff in the middle of the song (it’s the little nuances like that which make me adore this band).  Although it sounds a lot like “Invincible”, but it doesn’t carry the same intensity or conviction that the previous one carried with it.  For that reason and that reason alone, I’m not the hugest supporter of this song.  (C)

6.  Unnatural Selection

Favourite song of the album.  Starting off from the operatic, church organ-cloaked epic introduction, it transforms into a riff-embroiled masterpiece.  That riff gets me in the mood for anything – it’s like a simple but effective adrenaline disseminator.  The riff, I admit, is kinda similar to “New Born“…but then again, what’s wrong with that?  The entire song, to me, just yells out ‘screw the world, f*** it, f*** it, give me the truth and cut the s***”.  And that’s amazing.  Muse never lost their charm.  They just got older.  And they got much better at playing their own instruments.  After the first section(ish) of the song, it proceeds to this “I Want You (She’s So Heavy”)-ish ballad that still keeps me engaged.  Why?  Bellamy’s charismatic voice and his perfectly-placed lyrics are good enough to keep me listening forever. And ever.  Perfect song. Perfect riff. Perfect lyrics.  (A+)

7.  MK Ultra

One of my favourites from the album.  The opening riff, like almost all of Bellamy’s riffs, just gets you engaged instantaneously.  Sounding like one of the Chili Peppers’ arpeggio-atic riffs, it’s almost an unfailing component of the song.  But when Bellamy starts singing “How much destruction can you take?  How many lives will you create?” – that’s my jam right there.   When I write songs, all I can think about is how to perfectly fit in my lyrics so that the song sounds believable.  Bellamy does it effortlessly.  One more thing to note – the guitar tone throughout the song is arguably my favourite tone from the entire album.  It’s got almost a funkadelic/phased up/metallic feel to it that the other songs don’t seem to possess.  (A-)

8.  I Belong To You (Mon Coeur S’ouvre A Ta Voix)

Interesting tune.  Not immediately engage upon first listening, but it’s carries a jazzy piano riff that makes me listen to it again and again.  When Bellamy starts singing “She attacks me like a Leo…”, that’s when I really start to pay attention – it’s, again, the perfect combination of lyrics to place in that certain part of the song.  The second “song”, (the french one), just calms you down entirely.  Although I don’t speak a word of French, it still sounds sexy and intriguing.  I’ve almost got to the point where I can say the “gist” of what he’s saying just to sound cool, but in reality, have no idea what he’s actually talking about.   Finally, the end of the song, Bellamy brings the listener into an epic outro, carrying the tune up and up and up to a point where there’s no place to go.  But to stop.  And that’s exactly where he takes us.  (B)

9.  Exogenesis:  Symphony Part 1 (Overture)

The next three songs are just the focal point of the album for me.  Not an afterthought – the focal point.  Part 1, is just, similar to Invincible, a big crescendo.  The band cleverly manipulates the use of strings to bring in a Spiderman-like theme which ends up building up more and more to make it sound more theatrical than any of the band’s other previous creations.  It’s almost as if the band REJUVENATES the album by introducing a completely new set of ideas to the listener.  The first 8 songs were relatively “simple” (if I can liberally use that word) compared to the last 3 songs of the album.  In other words, the band has inserted a completely new idea into the album, making it even more interesting than the first 8 songs painted it out to be.  (B+)

10.  Exogensis:  Symphony Part 2 (Cross-Pollination)

To me, this is a perfect fusion of Bellamy’s classical music influences and a French/Muse-like theme.  It’s funny how he can take something that sounds so European and transcend standard musical conventions to make it into something completely cross-cultural (or in this case, extremely French-like – at least in the first part of the song).  After that, hints of “Unnatural Selection” comes back to mind as Dom plays his standard build-up drum fill and Bellamy rants about his classic “Invincible”-like ideologies (“Tell us, tell us your final wish…we will tell it to the world”).  Overall, it’s definitely one of my favourites off of the album – a simple package of what Muse is.  (A)

11.  Exogenesis:  Symphony Part 3 (Redemption)

Probably the most emotional song of the album.  It’s also the perfect ending.  Think about it – the entire album’s like an angsty teenager – constantly twisting and turning his emotional capacity.  From “Uprising” to “United States of Eurasia”, there’s a hateful, vindictive attitude being thrown around.  “Undisclosed Desires” and “The Resistance” paints a very optimistic/’let’s-fill-in-that-big-hole-in-your-heart’ kind of attitude.  The last three songs, and this song especially, just conclude that off perfectly by subtly stating that nothing matters – “Let’s start over again…This time we’ll get it right.”  You can take that lyric politically.  You can take it as a representation of human society’s adamancy to stay on topic when entering into times of conflict.  Or…you can take it as the perfect ending.  Brilliant.  (A)

The high points of the album:

1. Unnatural Selection

2. MK Ultra

3. The Resistance

4. United States of Eurasia

5. Exogenesis (all three of them)

Overall grade:  A-

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