Muse are the great proponents of outlandishly exuberant modern rock; a skyscraping musical juggernaut teetering on that finest of lines separating the splendorous from the utterly ridiculous, forging compositions that are an irresistable blend of both. On record they possess an uncompromising attention to detail to produce exquisitely intricate, fantastical music, whilst their boundless energy on stage has confirmed their standing as one of the planet’s most exhilarating live acts. It’s a formidable reputation that has won them a veritable army of followers. And it’s this reputation the Devon trio are charged with upholding on their latest studio effort, The Resistance.
Maintaining the momentum reached on their previous effort, Black Holes and Revelations, would appear to be a difficult task when considering the dizzying sonic heights it scaled. Interesting then that Muse have chosen this juncture to make their first foray into self-production, having previously relied on guidance from such notable figures as David Bottrill, Rich Costey and John Leckie during the creative process. They’ve also raised eyebrows by employing the services of a 40-piece orchestra during recording sessions at their studio in northern Italy. These factors invoke curiosity but also entice the listener to approach The Resistance with some apprehension. Have Muse finally bitten off more than they can chew?
Thankfully, the answer is no. On the contrary, the album finds Matt Bellamy, Dom Howard and Chris Wolstenholme at their superabundant best, continuing the mesmeric space-rock saga initiated on its predecessor. The curtain-raiser, ‘Uprising’, is typical Muse with its steady beat, stellar synths and Matt Bellamy crooning his way through lyrics alluding to struggle, revolution and victory. But anyone expecting the LP to unfold in this vein will be pleasantly surprised. ‘Undisclosed Desires’ is a case in point, owing more to the R&B production stylings of Timbaland than standard rock music formulae.
On the whole, however, it’s the ghosts of Queen, Jeff Buckley and even Chopin himself who intertwine with Muse’s own characteristic sound on this record. The piano intro and multi-layered vocals on ‘United States of Eurasia’ call to mind sequences from ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, with the song culminating in a foot-stamping, fist-raising chorus. ‘Belong to You (Mon Coeur S’Ouvre A Ta Voix)’ bounces along with it’s bubbling bassline tucked in beneath Bellamy’s falsetto and ends with – of all things – a strangely appropriate clarinet solo. The best, and most extravagant, is saved for last, with the final section of the album set aside for the three-part ‘Exogenisis Symphony’. It’s an undertaking the band members themselves approached with some trepidation; but listening to the ensemble progressing through the various movements it becomes apparent this is the composition Muse have always been destined to write. It’s awash with dramatic string arrangements and purposeful brass sections, interspersed with moments of pure serenity. ‘Exogenisis’ matches the three-piece’s virtuosity and satisfies their musical ego, resulting in a phenomenal 14 minutes of music.
Muse have crafted a daring body of work laden with expansive soundscapes, resulting in an album more complete than any of their previous offerings. Perhaps it’s the added dynamic of the orchestra or maybe it’s because they’ve let their imaginations run riot when left to their own devices. Whatever it is, it’s made The Resistance more than just a collection of awesome songs… it’s a work of art.
Pre-order the album here.