Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

Derivative but well done progressive rock from Muse

Muse is a band that has always sounded a little bit like Radiohead. The melodies are dramatic, the themes dark. Matthew Bellamy’s voice sounds a bit like Thom Yorke, even when he isn’t trying to imitate him. They come by it honestly, I suppose, being a British progressive rock band from Devon, just a few counties over from Radiohead’s home of Oxfordshire. And they hit the scene in 1999, 6 years after Radiohead’s debut.

Their muse is apparently other Brit rock bands.

While they had always sounded similar, Muse’s 2003 release, “Absolution,” sounded as though they were consciously imitating Radiohead’s 1995 release, “The Bends.” Normally, this turns me off a bit, but there are two reasons I am OK with this effort. First, by the time Muse got around to this sound, Radiohead had left that space and was playing the deconstructed electronic pop of “Kid A” and “Amnesiac.” Second, Muse does this sound really well.

“Absolution” is well produced, with evenly mixed layers of big sound, crisp percussion, and ringing tones. It is also well arranged, with verses flowing smoothly to bridges and back and building to great crescendos. It is well played, with complex guitar and keyboard parts deftly fingered or powerfully laid down. Finally and most importantly, it is well written. I like the songs.

Some of it is over the top. One reviewer commented “…if [you] want to sound like Radiohead when even Thom Yorke doesn’t want to sound like Radiohead, you might as well take it to such preposterous, bombastic, over-the-top-levels.” I don’t know about preposterous and bombastic, but some of it is a bit much. I do like four songs in particular from this album.

  • Apocalypse Please – “Absolution” kicks off with stomping piano and broad and bending harmonies alternating with electronic keyboard arpeggios. It’s a great lead in.
  • Falling Away With You – Track #6 starts as a pretty ballad, but grows until it’s as big and busy as ‘Apocalypse Please.’
  • Hysteria – This heavy, industrial song would be right at home on a Nine Inch Nails album.
  • Butterflies & Hurricanes – Bellamy does his best Thom Yorke on this one, but that’s a pretty good imitation. The piano is frantic and the percussion driving until a beautiful piano and strings bridge that carries us nearly to the end of the song.

I heard the new single from Muse’s new album, “The Resistance.” It is called ‘United States of Eurasia’ and it seems they switched gears for this album and channeled Queen instead of Radiohead. Give this a listen to see what I mean, but make sure you stick around for at least the first minute and a half. If you want bombastic and preposterous, this is it. Anyway, they don’t do anything by half measures, which I can respect.



January 13, 2010 - Posted by | Popular, Rock

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