Muse are a band at the peak of both their fame and their musical ability, and it shows on their new record. The scope, the vision of The Resistance is epic, the musicianship superb – but there’s no depth there. The album is only skin deep.
The first half is all revolutionary anthem; fire and brimstone on the class-warfare frontlines. The riffs are guttural, chugging over the top of a martial drum beat. When the guitar squeals, punctuating the endless marching beat, you can almost feel fists striking the air. “They will stop degrading us, they will not control us, we will be victorious” sings Bellamy on Uprising, as if inciting his band to melodic coup d’état.
The fact that Muse’s revolutionary vigour is all politico-babble does nothing to detract. The lyrics are all clichés; “Its time the fat cats / had a heart attack”, Bellamy cries, echoing every 21-year-old Che-Guevara-shirt-wearing political-science dropout. The lyrics seem almost purposefully meaningless, as if making an ultimate statement about politics; it’s all meaningless, isn’t it? All that matters is human emotion, captured in music.
It’s the second half of the album, bookended by Unnatural Selection on one side, and the 3-part Exogenesis Symphony on the other, that sees Muse renounce the politics, and instead begin to explore the power of their musical craft. Pulsating guitar lines are overlain with strings, horns and synthesizers; the music swells, overtaking and eating up Bellamy’s voice. Bellamy plays into that – no longer carrying the burden of having to communicate, he experiments with his voice, at one moment Freddy Mercury, the next Tom Waits. Calling track 8 Mon Coeur S’ouvre á ta Voix (and then not offering a translation) is the ultimate symbol of this new-found contempt for the failings of language – Muse are saying that you don’t need to understand the words to understand the message of the song.
Exogenesis Symphony I, II and III take the experiment with meaninglessness to its logical conclusion – three songs so overladen with sonic information that the listener becomes lost in an aural maze. Layer upon layer of instrumentation create a resonance comparable to Arcade Fire’s debut, Funeral; instruments emerge from nowhere, only to disappear again moments later. Bellamy’s vocals are chopped and changed, and given echoes so huge and overlapping as to be unintelligible – again, Muse aren’t attempting to communicate through the lyrics. The songs can’t be heard singularly – their meaning, their true power is in the emotional journey that they carry the listener through their 18-minute play length. Ultimately, that’s true of the whole album – each song is meaningless when taken on its own, but when put together, they tell us a lot about the way we communicate.
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