Muse is a divisive band. And this is their most divisive album. Fans generally have leveled with Showbiz, Origin of Symmetry, and Absolution, but only just in time for a few surprises. The themes of the 3-piece British rock band have not changed, nor have the chord progressions. What you’ll find in The Resistance is a new feel, because, for the first time, the band produced the whole album. There is unexpected R&B, plenty of orchestral neoclassical, and the usual helping of unabashed, insurrectionary epicness. Fans miss their old, raw sound—but they’ve already done that.
The first song, and also the album’s first single, is “Uprising.” If I turn my speakers up, I can hear what sounds like a British arena filled with the country’s hooligans preparing to “rise up and take the power back.” The music video is just as intense, and definitely worth a glance if only to see the rampaging teddy bears. Don’t let the repetitive drum line fool you; drummer Dominic Howard really holds this powerhouse song together.
The second single was the third track on the album, “Undisclosed Desires.” This one is definitely a risky move for Muse, and it doesn’t quite work. The song starts with a pop R&B beat and includes sensual string pizzicato. However, the title is so obnoxious, and the sort-of-sexy lyrics are just too much. Finally, the only thing worth hearing in the chorus is bass player Wolstenholme’s collection of fuzz pedals. I applaud the risk taking, but this stylistic change may be a dead end.
“The Resistance,” the single set to be released next month, is what fans have been waiting for from Muse. It plays a lot like “New Born” from Origin even though it’s a little less raw. The one-minute long, haunting piano introduction is the perfect build-up to such an electric chorus. Plus, there is no longer any doubt that the album features a theme of Orwellian dystopia, including a mention of the thought police. Finally, the band reveals what all the fuss is about, saying: “Love is our resistance.” What could be a greater catalyst for social change than fucking, am I right?
The fourth song on the track, “United States Of Eurasia,” was definitely a big surprise, musically. The members have mentioned that Queen is one of their musical influences, but this song brushes on imitation. The chorus sports multi-part harmonies, but the song ends with a modified version of Chopin’s memorable Nocturne in E-flat Major, Op. 9 No. 2. Bellamy was cheeky enough to rename that segment of the piece “Collateral Damage.” While it may impress some listeners, I can assure you that both the originals are better.
If you are only glancing at this album, it may be worth your time to move past the next few songs. “MK” Ultra is enjoyable, but when “I Belong to You” shows up on the playlist, go ahead and skip it. Best to move to the last three tracks.
Despite a shaky middle of the album, the band finished off very strong with the “Exogenesis Symphony,” a thirteen-minute long project of singer Bellamy’s. The band is onto something here. The orchestra takes the center stage, but when Bellamy enters at 1:43, I get my own breathtaking vision of the idea behind the whole album. Experience it yourself first, then let’s get dinner in Pierson and talk about it. Concertgoers will be happy to hear that the first part of the symphony makes an appearance during the show.
On the whole, the album definitely pushes boundaries and does so in a way that is very entertaining. The band has received criticism for its new stadium-ready rock, but let’s be real. They play a lot of stadiums. For better or for worse, Twilight author Stephanie Meyer mentioned Muse in the acknowledgments in three of her four books, saying in Eclipse, “I am in your debt, rock gods of Muse, for yet another inspiring album.” This was in 2007 and refers to the Black Holes album. While I was disheartened to hear that I had something in common with Meyer, this attention certainly enhanced Muse’s popularity among fresher audiences. As there is no mention of the Twilight – Muse relationship on Wikipedia yet, core fans probably shun the association.
While the band is divisive, the exclusion is what ultimately draws their best fans. The hardest part to swallow lies in the way they mashed themes of revolution on top of their brazen imitation. It’s their way of paying tribute, and fans will quickly feel better about it. The Resistance is a great album, and the “Exogenesis Symphony” is the direction the band should take in future releases.