You know that I care, you should’ve been there


Yesterday one of the biggest musical events of 2009 occurred, the release of the new Muse album, The Resistance. And when I say biggest, I really mean big. Huge, stratospheric, galactic. With each passing album Muse have been adding layer upon layer of epic opulence onto their work, each time moving away from intimate, personal issues, sacrificing humanity to the altar in a surge for the divine.

“It’s time for something Biblical” – Apocalypse Please

Don’t say they didn’t warn us.

To mark this, I decide to write about the progression of my relationship to Muse’s music. Partly because it allows me to update my own feelings in regards to The Resistance, but mostly because Muse very much changed the way I felt about music, moving my just-teenage mind away from chart tracks and onto something more fulfilling. I may even go as far to say that without that particular band at that particular moment in my life my taste in music could’ve gone off in any direction or in none at all. They have had quite the effect.

At the age of 13, music didn’t interest me. I am reminded, in fact, of a short passage in Nick Hornby’s “High Fidelity”, where he describes the feelings of pre-adolescent boys towards girls. “One moment they weren’t there, at least in no form that interested us, and the next… they were everywhere”. That’s exactly how I felt about rock music. At the time I’m sure I was aware that such bands existed that played rock but they barely registered on my radar. Whatever numbing dross happened to be on the radio that was what I would listen to. I did not pursue the matter further. Then I was persuaded to listen to Muse’s Absolution, by a friend who had reached musical maturity a little before me.

An old battered CD player, a pair of over-the-head headphones and a bean bag nursed me through the ensuing experience. I know that something changed during that time, beforehand music was a thing to be endured, to be enjoyed perhaps for a fleeting moment. But afterwards… it was something to aspire to, to be moved by. It was something to evaluate, possibly dedicate a life to. Absolution is a fine album, stirring and fun, complex in parts and memorable more often than most albums manage, but it isn’t exactly a classic of its times. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before, and often done better. But it opened up a door for me.

So next I bought Showbiz. Actually, next I rocked out to Time Is Running Out a kajillion times and demanded to borrow somebody’s bass so I could learn Hysteria, but after doing that I bought Showbiz.  It perfectly added to Muse’s repertoire whilst also adding another dimension to their music. It provided more unabashed rock songs and less spontaneous classical piano interludes, but I definitely fell for it. Origin of Symmetry soon followed, I played New Born as part of my Music GCSE course in an unworthy attempt to imitate the song’s swagger and force.

I bought albums by The White Stripes and Radiohead, they seemed the logical next steps. It spread from there, an exponential spiralling that led me to this point, a guy whose love for music is so deeply entrenched he is perfectly happy to write a thousand words a day based around his various musical experiences. I’ll always remember that Muse’s Absolution was the source of this spiral. And my anticipation grew to a climax with the release of Black Holes & Revelations. On first listen I loved it, declared it a masterwork, unrivalled in its eccentric power.

Three years on I’m happy to say that BH&R is an experiment of an album, a place where Muse threw a few ideas at the wall to see which ones would stick and which wouldn’t. Some of those ideas I love, Hoodoo is a Spanish guitar-led triumph, Take a Bow is the perfect way to introduce a grandiose album and Supermassive Black Hole gave a link back to Showbiz, a simple rock track but with interstellar aspirations.  But it really is way off the pace of the first three records, and is probably only on a par with Muse’s b-side album Hullaballoo. What Muse should’ve done after Black Holes was taken a good hard look at what stuck to the wall of success and what had fallen down into the waste-paper bin of failure (Assassin, I’m looking at you).

What they have actually done with The Resistance is taken the template of Black Holes, ie a sense of huge scale and sweeping, overblown statements, and then filtered it through an Orwellian lens, doubled the insanity and sense of grand purpose and added some maniacal laughter just for effect. Gone are the intimate, lovelorn longings that adorned their early work, in comes mad conspiracy theories and old-school Queen-like theatrics.

The Resistance is an album where new terms will need to be created to properly describe the scale, not only of the ambition but also of the sounds. The battiness is compelling, but only sometimes. Sometimes you just sit and shake your head and think “these are the same guys who wrote Falling Down”. Instead of being raised by the powerful audio imagery and rousing lyrics I sag, wondering how Muse reached this stage.

Uprising provides an interesting introduction, it certainly riffs of older Muse material but making it clear that we are moving away from that territory. But nothing after it really sticks. What do you throw in after you’ve already thrown in the kitchen sink? That is what Matt Bellamy asked himself, and The Resistance is the result. For every idea that has some substance, another will soon take its place to interrupt the momentum. Unnatural Selection provides brisk riffs as snarled lyrics, but soon collapses under its own 7 minute weight.

I cannot help but compare The Resistance with Muse’s previous work. I know I shouldn’t because of the deification I’ve given their back catalogue. I want the same reaction as I got to my first Absolution listen. I won’t get that, but I liked to think that Muse could still provide the same electric rock shock they’ve been giving me for a few years. The Resistance doesn’t give that. Playful at times, hysterically unbearable at others (no, Matt Bellamy, I don’t want another classical piano interlude that is a sub-par Butterflies & Hurricanes. No, Matt Bellamy, I don’t want you to sing in French).

So anyway, The Resistance is not worth the effort of taking in all the misguided tricks and ideas. My next blog will ignore Muse somewhat as I try and get over this half-catastrophe, and I shall instead move onto my top 25 albums of the decade. I’m thinking about doing them in sets of 5, working towards numero uno.

Oh yeah, for all that talk last time of which UNKLE album would make it on the list, here comes a shocker, because neither of them have. Suck that, James Lavelle.

OK James Lavelle, you don’t have to suck that if you don’t want to. I really don’t want to start a fight with you. You could have DJ Shadow and Josh Homme punching their way through my door with just a click of your fingers. I’m sorry James Lavelle.

You’re still not going in my top 25 though…

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About Alex Pavitt
I work in the field of emotion. My tools are instinctual feelings and my laptop is the medium between my brain and the outside world. I deconstruct and rebuild. I imagine. I steal other people's lyrics because somtimes, my own words aren't enough. I spend all of my time somewhere inside my head. I worship Douglas Adams, and in the back of my mind I am always painfully aware that I will never be as good as him or, for that matter, anybody else.

One Response to You know that I care, you should’ve been there

  1. Ignus Iudicium says:

    Shit just got REAL.

    But yeah, The Resistance isn’t very good, and I’m disgusted by your opinion of Hullabaloo.

    You already know these things.

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