Capsule Review: “The Resistance” by Muse

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September 18, 2009

1:14 AM

Making their American television debut at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards Sunday night, the British band Muse proved that you do not need a trapeze or a blood-soaked death scene to have a memorable performance. Performing their first single “Uprising” from their new album “The Resistance,” they have once again created a genre-defying album that will become a permanent and well-played fixture on my iPod.

Three years after “Black Holes and Revelations,” which provided the soundtrack to my first summer in New York City, I eagerly anticipated their fifth studio release, “The Resistance.” “Uprising” represents what I like best about their music — a rock sensibility paired with an amazing backbeat.

Hidden amidst songs with themes of the apocalypse and protest are some unconventional love songs, like “Undisclosed Desires” and “I Belong to You,” the latter featuring Matthew Bellamy singing in French. These songs convey a more electro feel that might turn past fans off, but I admire their desire to experiment.

Prior to the release, I heard rumors of a 15-minute space rock solo. That rumor partly manifests itself in the three-part song “Exogenesis,” an ambitious and sweeping modern rock symphony with haunting yet beautiful vocals by Bellamy. Muse has a unique talent for combining high art with an accessibility that anyone can appreciate.

One of the most talked-about songs is “The United States of Eurasia” — a nearly six-minute rock opera which has inevitably drawn comparisons to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The song chronicles a war that cannot be won, building up to a lyrical climax that ends with a piano sonata. It’s an amazing song to be sure, but it is not one of my favorites. While all the songs are musically impressive, it does at times feel too similar to their past albums. That being said, with a band as talented and innovative as Muse, it is not necessarily a bad thing.

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