Just look at that cover and I mean, really look at it. In the middle is our planet Earth and leading up to it is some kind of ray of light. Surrounded by a colorful imagination of space and all of its radiance is a spherical palette of colors. That, in a nutshell is what Muse has always been about. They’ve pushed themselves, deeper and deeper, into what kind of outlandish hysterics they could create. And for the most part, they’re the kind of band that relishes the idea of never taking one’s self too seriously. Where Black Holes and Revelations was their commercial breakthrough success: an album that found its way onto many year end lists three years ago; The Resistance is easily, their most fully realized album to date.
Tightening the reins on their melody boat — which by the way is one of the best in the music industry — there is nothing left unscathed on the English trio’s latest triumph. An album that entices as much as it excites, moves as much as it grooves and perplexes as much as it amazes, this is the kind of music Muse was destined to create. And where lead singer Matthew Bellamy finds a way to realize whether he is channeling Freddy Mercury, David Bowie or Wayne Coyne, or maybe all three, the band dive further into the sweepingly grand orchestrations they’ve always shown the aptitude for.
“United States of Eurasia (+Collateral Damage)” is where things turn into one compellingly gripping journey. Stories circled around the band and how they’d find themselves laughing at the idea of including such dramatics onto the album. With “Bohemian Rhapsody”-like guitar riffs and vocal chants, the album ends with Chopin’s Nocturne in Eb Major, Op. 9 No. 2. And while the clarinet solo on “I Belong to You/Mon Cœur S’ouvre à ta Voix” (also borrowing from Saint-Saëns’ Samson and Delilah) is a soothing allure of richness, it was apparently partly inspired by the cantina scene in Star Wars. Incredibly farfetched? Check. Absolutely ridiculous? Check. Impeccably composed? CHECK. Not only does Muse have the ability to layer such music with captivating melodies and harmonies but they’ve captured the comfort level in allowing their influences to reign over them without ever losing focus of the goal: making music for the masses.
In contrast, the first three songs pack one of the better openings in Muse’s career. Whether you prefer “Take a Bow” to Bellamy’s striding, “They will not force us and they will stop degrading us,” on “Uprising” is subjective but one can’t deny the sheer magnetic drive the latter follows. It’s their stake to fame, their power to the people, their standing up and defending themselves. You can’t allow the seriousness to disallow you from reading the humor in Muse’s music and while some people are far too earnest and too reflective for their own good, this shouldn’t hinder the magic that occurs all over The Resistance.
The album can be neatly diagramed into three sections: 1) The beginning three songs that deliver some of their most direct and electrifying hooks of their career, 2) The following five songs that gradually become more and more eclectic and eccentric and 3) The final suite of songs that border on near-classical proportions. But this is the easiest it gets and if this sounds like one magnificent idea, and yes it is, then you’re in for one of the best rides of the year.
The ultimately final three songs, named upon the basis of “Exogenesis: Symphony, Pts. 1-3” are where classical fans can rejoice. The “Overture” is a rousing string composition that at first appears like the quiet tone of Schubert’s “Ave Maria” and through minor and diminished chords, it cadences into a lulling escape. While “Cross-Pollination” swells into a grinding tour de force, it halts in front of Gershwin-esque piano frills and spills. To end, “Redemption” borrows on piano from Mozart’s era with an explosion fitting of Beethoven and before dying out, the string and piano’s corresponding parts are resoundingly calming.
Although they’ve been fortunate in garnering much deserved attention and respect throughout the last few years — a bill on the MTV VMA Awards doesn’t hurt — they’ve also been making great music for years before. If you haven’t figured out that this is all about theatrics with the tongue firmly in check, then you’re delusional. Either way, you don’t need to be fanatical or any other synonym to realize that this is utterly spectacular music.