Album Review: Muse, “The Resistance” (2009)

I’ve been listening to Muse for a while now.  I think I first discovered the English band back in 2008, through a friend that recommended their music to me.  I quickly fell in love with lead singer, Matthew Bellamy, and his soaring vocals, as well as guitarist, Chris Wolstenholme and drummer, Dominic Howard.

Muse has a pretty unique sound; for those whom haven’t heard of their alternative/almost glam-rock style, it may take a bit to get used to.  The first few listens of their music confused me, honestly; Bellamy’s vocals are wailing, theatrical, and just a bit over the top at times- but in good ways.  Wolstenholme and Howard create almost eerie backing music, and their lyrics are often about anarchy and other post-apocalyptic themes.

So it’s almost no wonder that it took Muse nearly ten years since their debut to cross over and find success in the States.  Their 2006 effort, Black Holes and Revelations saw significant success, but it has not been until their most recent effort, 2009’s The Resistance, that I’ve ever heard a Muse song be played on local radio stations.

The album begins with the lead single, Uprising, a powerful, guitar-driven track that plays as a sort of anthem about, well…rising up.  Though the lyrics aren’t specific, it’s safe to say the song is about rising against the government, and oppression, a common theme throughout the album.  The chorus is the strongest part, as Bellamy sings over an electric beat, “They will not us force us, they will stop degrading us.  They will not control us, we will be victorious.”  The use of pronouns in the chorus makes the song easy to get caught up in; every time I listen to this track, I feel all-powerful and like I need to storm my local government offices and tear down posters.  Or something.

Resistance follows, and boasts heavier guitar riffs.  The song is actually a love song, though you wouldn’t know it from the epic drumming and guitar in the background.  However, a glance at the lyrics (“Love is our resistance/…I’ll wait a thousand years just to see you smile again”) tells a story of two lovers being kept apart.  I’ve come to my own conclusion that the lyrics are a nod at the two characters in love in 1984 (there’s even a direct reference to “the thought police”), and given the album’s overall anti-government/dystopia concept, I’d say I’m right.  But then again, I may just be reading a lot into the song since 1984 is my favorite book. At any rate, the song is a nice enough track, but as a whole, is a lot less interesting than its predecessor.

We get back in the swing of things with Undisclosed Desires.   The song is another love song, but again, the lyrics are far from stereotypical.  The chorus (“I want to reconcile the violence in your heart/I want to recognize, 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”) is catchy, romantic, and just a bit eerie, like every good Muse song.  Synthesizers in the background give the sound a sort of new wave/pop feel, but it works extremely well.  Bellamy’s singing is also a highlight in this song, particularly the amount of yearning he sings the line, “Tease me, you are the one…” with.

“And these wars; they can’t be won.  And do you want them to go on, and on, and on? Why split these states when there can be only one?  And must we do as we’re told?”, opens United States of Eurasia. Musically, the song has an interesting Middle Eastern melody playing in the background, which makes you want to dance.  But the lyrical content is what’s really important here, as Bellamy again specifically sings of overturning a one leader government and promotes anarchy.  The hippie in me loves this song and sentiment, though someone a little more conservative might not enjoy the radical approach the band takes here.  The vocals definitely call back to Queen and the song is extremely theatrical and over the top, but again, in good ways.  And then, right when you’ve joined in singing, “Eurasia!  Eurasia!  Eurasia!” the song fades into a classical piece, titled Collateral Damage.  The piano interlude is absolutely gorgeous, especially paired with the song before it.

The album continues with a sort of rock-opera feel with Guiding Light.  I personally don’t care for the song much; it borrows too much from Queen, and sounds like a second rate copy of some of the better songs on this very album.    The synthesizers and Bellamy’s singing give the song a very dramatic feel, and the effort is definitely there, but I just I feel as though the song is a lackluster counterpart to the others on the album.

Muse 2008-02-05 001

The Resistance has never been marketed as such, but I’d think it’s safe to label it as a concept album.  And if the album is a concept album, then the theme could be summed up in one simple command: revolt.  This is explored more with Unnatural Selection and MK Ultra.  The first of the two sounds like most of the other songs on the album, though boasts a catchier guitar hook which I enjoy.  The latter is electric sounding, and a bit blah, really, but plays as nice background music, at any rate.

We break free from this theme with I Belong To You, the only “commercial” song on the album.  I call it commercial because the sound is completely different from anything on the album and is, therefore, the most radio friendly.  It’s catchy and purely pop sounding, calling to mind some of Muse’s earlier hits like Starlight and Time Is Running Out.  The track is a favorite of mine, though; the melody is fun and upbeat, and the light subject matter and lyrics (“I can’t find the words to say, they’re overdue/I’d travel half the world to say ‘I belong to you'”) provide a refreshing change from some of the album’s heavier tracks.    The song then fades into a French song from the Opera, Samson and Delilah.  The piece is pretty, though Bellamy admittedly doesn’t have the vocal range or weight to properly carry an Opera.  Still, the orchestra and choir in the interlude is beautiful, and the best part of all is when the interlude seamlessly fades right back into I Belong To You.  The combination brings excitement, and makes the songthat much more (for lack of better words) awesome.

Exogenesis Symphony Part 1 (Overture) picks up where I Belong To You takes off.  30 different musicians took part in this three piece symphony, and the tracks feature Bellamy singing and playing classical piano.  This first part is certainly spooky and almost foreboding of something bad to come; it sounds like it’d be played in a horror movie right before the lead character dies.   Bellamy comes in singing towards the end of the track, and you can’t really understand a thing he’s singing, which just makes the track even more mysterious and creepy.   This song was the one that won my friend over; as a cello player, she found the piece to be absolutely beautiful, and was in awe of the fact that Muse added this whole symphony onto their album.  This track, paired with a few others on the album led her to download Muse’s entire discography.

Symphony Part 2 is softer sounding, with some of the pretty cello parts that my friend fell in love with.  Though you couldn’t really understand or focus on Bellamy’s singing in the prior track, the lyrics are clearer here (“Rise above the crowds/Wade through toxic clouds/Breach the outer sphere/The edge of all our fears rest with you/We are counting on you/It’s up to you”) and it’s clear that the post apocalyptic/anarchy theme is back.

The album comes to a close with the best piece of the symphony, Redemption.  This piece is by far the softest and prettiest of all in the symphony; the melody is absolutely stunning and I just love listening to it.  The music sounds like it could also be in a movie, though this time it would be at some really moving scene.  The lyrics, “let’s start over again/why can’t we start it over again?” are incredibly beautiful paired with the lush melody and orchestration.

Muse’s fifth album, The Resistance, is short in length (only eleven tracks), but is one of those rare, cohesive albums that you can play from start to finish and completely enjoy.  Some tracks are stronger than others, of course, but as a whole, The Resistance is a brilliant album, and hopefully cements Muse in the hearts of music lovers world-wide.

Rating: 200px-4_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. Uprising
2. Resistance
3. Undisclosed Desires
4. United States of Eurasia (+Collateral Damage)
5. Guiding Light
6. Unnatural Selection
7. MK Ultra
8. I Belong to You/Mon Coeur S’Ouvre a Ta Voix
9. Exogenesis: Symphony, Pt. 1: Overture
10. Exogenesis: Symphony, Pt. 2: Cross-Pollination
11. Exogenesis: Symphony, Pt. 3: Redemption


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