Muse – The Resistance

28 10 2009

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Orchestral extravaganzas, hard rock riffs, multi-layered vocals borrowed from Queen, formatted across eleven tracks and with a Middle-Eastern flavour. English alt-rock trio Muse’s fifth musical effort The Resistance is nothing short of diverse, contrasting symphonic suites and hard rock anthems. Their previous album, Black Holes and Revelations, earned the band popularity with the success of material inclusions for Guitar Hero and Twilight. A follow-up album was inevitable. Finally, after three years, the next instalment in Muse’s discography has been released, unfortunately met with mixed reception. Fan boys crying uncontrollably at the media’s mixed reaction need to understand something about the album; it’s good, but it’s not perfect. It’s different, but for some, it’s too different. 

Some may have enjoyed the Radiohead-rooted alternative rock sound developed in Muse’s material from previous albums. While not completely abandoning their heavier, more guitar-driven sound, the band has now delved into a very different musical word; symphonic rock.

Teenage girls whose idols include Zac Effron and Robert Pattison might enjoy the romantic content prevalent in some of the tracks, but the rest of us might not meet this with warm reception. The lyrical content stumbles between vocal lines such as “And we know that there’s no-one we can trust, our ancient heroes are turning to dust”, to how “I want to recognize your beauty’s not just a mask”. It’s a tangle of style and it becomes awkward when you try to work out what direction the band is heading toward. For simplicity, each track will be discussed separately in this review.

The first track, Uprising, discusses how “paranoia is in bloom” and how “the P.R. transmissions will resume”, aimed at any government whose “green belts wrap around minds”. Uprising is lined by a synthesizer-pad riff remarkably similar to Billy Idol’s White Wedding. The track was released as the album’s lead single on September 7, 2009 with a music video released on September 17.
The second and title track, Resistance, follows, clocking in at just less than six minutes. Resistance is well-produced and features an excellent introduction, but is a perfect example of the odd lyrical content discussed earlier. The verse is written from a post-apocalyptic perspective engaging listeners with endless rhetoric, asking “Is our secret safe tonight, and are we out of sight, or will our world come tumbling down?” It sounds well-constructed and seems to make sense until we enter the chorus: “Love is our resistance, they’ll keep us apart they won’t stop breaking us down. Hold me. Our lips must always be sealed.” It doesn’t really make any sense; it’s just odd.

The album becomes blatantly ugly with the effortless, soppy pulp that is Undisclosed Desires – which sounds like something that should be sprawled on a ship deck and sterilized in a potent disinfectant. The senseless drivel is fueled by cheesy lines such as “Soothing, I’ll make you feel pure. Trust me, you can be sure.” It isn’t Muse. It’s a promotional failure. What makes it doubly worse is its over-killed pizzicato string arrangement lined with a horrifically misplaced slap bass line. Undisclosed Desires is easily one of the most unpleasant songs to listen to from Muse’s repertoire. This song should be discarded and never mentioned again. Period.

Then enters United States of Eurasia, one of the main highlights of the album. USoE is a symphonic ballad which is comprised of decent lyrical content – finally. Another government-aimed conspiracy-theory lyric famous in Muse’s style. The track begins as a soft, piano ballad with a well-written orchestral accompaniment with personified lyrics such as “You and me are the same. We don’t know or care who’s to blame.” Then enters the guitar and bass, accompanied by a multi-layered vocal track. Indefinitely reminiscent of Queen, and suffering criticism because of this, USoE  then breaks down into a Middle-Eastern style orchestral riff. Although the bulk of the song is only about four minutes long, the last two minutes of the song, coined as Collateral Damage, is an arrangement of Chopin’s Nocturne in Eb Major Op.9 No.2, with strings and choir softly echoing in the background.

United States of Eurasia segues into Guiding Light, which is a power ballad lined with Van Halen-style synthesizers. It all sounds a bit ridiculous but the track is actually well-executed and driven by an electronic guitar solo. The song is indefinitely progressive, following no obvious verse-chorus structure creating an open atmosphere. Again, however, the lyrical content becomes senseless.

Then follows Unnatural Selection, the most guitar-driven song on the album. The track opens with the chorus dubbed over a church organ before the band entry. The heavy riff is line with a melody projected through a megaphone and a catchy bridge section. Halfway through, the song breaks down into a bass-driven interlude before erupting into a final chorus. Remarkably, the track is nearly seven minutes long, but this is owing to the extensive interlude right in the middle, which seems to drag on for about three minutes. Emphasis on the dragging on.

Then follows  MK Ultra, an electronic track driven by spidery guitar riffs and heavy musical interludes. MK Ultra showcases Muse’s well-crafted lyrical content. The chorus is catchy and has a great melody and the song is overall pleasing, but the song overall could have been dragged on for a bit longer as it clocks in at just over four minutes.

The eighth track, I Belong to You, is driven by a piano riff and has a salsa feel to it. After the second verse, enters an entourage of Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix, extracted from the French opera Samson and Delilah. It is basically a two-minute vocal solo from front man Matt Bellamy and makes the song brilliant. It then enters a bass clarinet solo…odd, but cool. Sadly, the remix which will appear in the film New Moon completely destroys everything decent about the song. The entire operatic section is taken out and the song is overlayed by an annoying, echoing guitar riff – which is far too loud.

The last three tracks are sometimes penned as an “orchestral monster”. The three-part Exogenesis Symphony is the absolute highlight of the album. Even critics who received the album negatively at least praised Exogenesis. It is a sweeping orchestral suite with spine-tingling vocal work. A stroke of sheer brilliance, Exogenesis is a perfect conclusion to the album.

Artwork taken from: http://www.fanpop.com/spots/muse/images/7459283/title/resistance-artwork

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