Muse is one of those bands that set the Internet ablaze anytime they do anything. People get worked up and either consider everything they do ‘mind-blowing’ or ‘amazing’ or just scoff and dismiss them as pretentious Queen rip-offs. Around the time their last album, Black Holes and Revelations, came out, Muse was caught up in a Kanye-ish cloud of hype and expectation. The album sold well and spawned some hit singles, but there were always those who said snobbish things like “Muse hasn’t ever released a ‘perfect’ album, this isn’t as good as Origin of Symmetry!!!” After Muse finally broke into the mainstream on a global scale with their last release, they went on to sell out Wembley STADIUM in the UK and tour the world with U2. This week, I turn my attention to The Resistance, which will be in US stores tomorrow (and leaked last week, of course).
I don’t envy the task the band must have felt they had during the recording process this time around, fighting against the two-headed dragon of global expectation and the suffocating hype machine. Well, The Resistance is a damn fine result of such (seemingly) perilous conditions, and is in my opinion a better, more cohesive album than the previous one.
Uprising – first track, first single, killer opening to the album. It has the requisite synth flourish and pulsating beat, with Matt Bellamy’s whispery-to-operatic vocals saying things about some sort of uprising (duh) and how it’s time the “fat cats had a heart attack”. One of the little guitar snorts reminds me of the main riff in Call Me by Blondie, which is hardly the type of comparison I expected to ever make when talking about Muse, but it’s there and it’s funny.
Resistance – Longer song (5:47, to be exact), with lavish orchestration and self-important piano plucks that lead into another propulsive drum beat/rhythm that leads into the verse and rest of the song. It's one of the better tunes on the album, and has some unexpected tempo changes before the massive chorus sets in. This is your typical big sprawling epic Muse song, as they all tend to be nowadays, and it’s carried out well. I’m not quite sure what Muse is trying to inspire us to rise up against or resist, but whatever.
Undisclosed Desires – this one has more of a dance-ish feel to it, similar to Supermassive Black Hole from the last album, but without any of the same Prince-esque vocal squeals Bellamy used that time around. This time, he does more of that hushed-to-loud voice thing that he does so well, leading to the chorus of “I want to reconcile the violence in your heart…I want to recognize your beauty is not just a mask, I want to exorcise the demons from your past…I want to satisfy the undisclosed desires in your heart…” Overall, the song would make a good radio single, and it’s another highlight of the record.
United States of Eurasia – I still think this song is somewhat bland, but it does have a cool piano outro that redeems it a bit. Oh, and it also has an impossible-to-deny Queen homage that will excite the Muse haters out there, right around the 1:16 mark.
Guiding Light – one of my least favorite tracks, this one sounds like they wrote it on the bus during the U2 tour. It has that pompous, “we want to write the best, most emotional song ever” vibe going for it, and it falls flat a little bit. Not terrible, but somewhat throwaway.
Unnatural Selection – Begins with church organs and slow Bellamy vocals (oh no!) but turns into my favorite song off the album. It’s also probably the closest the band comes to a full-on ‘rocker’, along the lines of Hysteria and Stockholm Syndrome. One of the main riffs is basically lifted right off of New Born from Origin of Symmetry, which is great since that is one of their best, but is somewhat distracting until you just forget about it and let the song take over. The song changes tempo and structure a few times, and ends with some great riffage that should satisfy those who have grown weary of Muse’s slower, more dramatic tunes of late.
MK Ultra – I have no idea what this song’s title means, but it’s pretty good. Picks up a bit toward the end, and is overall one of the more lively tunes on the album.
I Belong To You – this one ended before I realized I had been listening to it, but it wasn’t too bad. Not a highlight, but not “bad” either.
Exogenesis – I’m lumping all three of the chapters of this so-called “Exogenesis” together. It wouldn’t be a Muse record without some lavishly orchestrated, overly ambitious and self-important opus, and Exogenesis is just that. It starts out with an Overture, with (what else) strings, instrument swells and breathy Bellamy vocals. Part 2 Cross-Pollination has more piano and brooding vocals, leading into Redemption, which concludes the triumvirate and thus the album. It’s a bit silly and overblown, but what else can you expect from Muse?
In attempting to wrap up this bloated review of a grandiose album such as this, I declare: The Resistance is a lot better than I thought it would be. The album succeeds more than it fails, and in the end it’s a great follow-up to the record that launched them to global stardom and overdue mass popularity. While Bellamy’s vocals may be a bit overbearing at times, and the slower tunes a bit monotonous, the overall sound and orchestration on this record more than make up for that. The Resistance is a solid album from a very creative band that had a momentous task in front of it. They (mostly) come out on top, and while I’m sure I’ll see a lot of reviews bashing this record, I think it’s probably the best album Muse could make at this point in their career.