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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Muse: "The Resistance"

Muse just barely disappointed me with Black Holes and Revelations, an album critically acclaimed to be their crowning achievement that I found slightly uneven.  I've never thought twice about naming Absolution as my favorite album by the band, and as a follow-up, Black Holes just seemed to be lacking the same focus and drive.  This left room for The Resistance to come in and reclaim what I felt they had lost.  In a way, it does.  Resistance takes the best moments from each album and tries to put its own unique spin on them.  The result is far more hit and miss than Black Holes could have ever dreamt of being, yet still a somewhat rewarding experience for any Muse fan.

What Muse does exceedingly well on The Resistance is the same thing they've always done;  craft loud, smart, beautigul rock music.  "Uprising" feels like a Muse take on a Marilyn Manson song - at least initially.  By the time the third chorus rolls around, you'll most likely be rocking out to the harmonies and Muse-peggios that you've grown accustomed to over the years.  As far as pure, unadulterated rock goes though, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything on this album more satisfying than "United States of Eurasia."  The song is so pretty, yet so raw and real that you'll think you were listening to Queen.  When Matt screams out, "United States!  United States!" I get goosebumps at the sheer awesomeness of it all.  This is classic Muse; something that any long-time fan can instantly fall in love with.

But as I said, The Resistance is a highly uneven listen, and where songs like "Eurasia" will rock your junk clean off, others like "Guiding Light" fall absolutely flat.  It's this album's "Invincible" - really good until you start to see all the flaws in it.  "Undisclosed Desires" is Muse's completely misguided attempt at making a Britney Spears song, which may pander to the "Twilight" crowd (I can't even begin to tell you how much it annoys me when people describe "Supermassive Black Hole" as "that song from Twilight), but it has absolutely no place on this album!  In all fairness, it seems like they're trying to recreate that same song right down to the lyrical content.  But where "Supermassive" had an irresistible rock groove to it, this one is simply boring.  As far as the poppier Muse is concerned, I'll be just fine with "I Belong to You," easily one of the album's finest tracks.  It's got a danceable beat and an infectious feel.  The French interlude is strikingly beautiful, and when everything comes back together again, well, it's just magic!

A review of The Resistance wouldn't be complete without mentioning the 3-part "symphony" that closes out the album.  "Exogenesis" is straight from the Absolution-era of Muse, and for that reason, I can't help but love it!  "Overture" sounds like a roided-out version of "Ruled by Secrecy," the eerie closer to the band's 2003 masterpiece, "Cross-Pollination" is straight out of "Butterflies and Hurricanes," while "Redemption" sort of just stands on its own merits.  As great as these songs are though, they feel entirely tacked-on to the album, which takes away from their greatness a bit.

The biggest flaw of The Resistance in my opinion is the lyrical content.  Matt Bellamy has seemed compelled to write socio-political songs as of late, so seeing it appear all over the album is no big surprise.  But Muse's music alone has always made me want to go take on the whole world.  Writing a song about how we need to rebel against the powers that be and "watch our flag ascend" just seems like a dumbing-down of the music.  Popular music has always been an outlet for speaking out against governments and "fat cats," but Dylan did it much better in the 60s.  Bellamy's lyrics come off as a Saturday-morning cartoons version of the same thing.

Still, there's a lot to like about The Resistance.  There are some fantastic songs on this album, and if you can get over the 3 or 4 dud tracks and the sometimes-silly lyrical content ("Love is our resistance?"  Dear  god, really?!?), you'll find that it is an entirely worthy album to add to your collection.  Yes, Muse is officially an "arena" band, but they're endlessly more talented than any of the other bands occupying the sub-genre.  Take solace in that, and in knowing that in the last 10 years they have yet to let any of us down entirely.

Key Tracks:
1. "Uprising"
2. "Resistance"
3. "United States of Eurasia"
4. "I Belong to You"
5. "Exogenesis: Symphony Pt. 1:  Overture"

7 out of 10 Stars

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