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Reviews

Muse
The Resistance Emma Johnston , September 16th, 2009 08:49

It is the job — nay, duty — of rock stars to look, sound and behave like ridiculous, pompous caricatures of themselves at all times, mainly so the rest of us can get on with the business of making a sandwich without worrying about toppling off a pair of stack heels and stabbing ourselves in the hand with a butter knife.

Some, like Lady Gaga, have a deep understanding of this and subvert the tabloid love of a good pop car crash to create a living, sparkling work of Warholian art that reflects the public taste for gossip right back at them. Others, like Bono, were born ridiculous: pompous self-awareness vacuums who had to become famous and fawned over to avoid imploding in a flash of impotent self-loathing. And then you get Muse, a band whose dictionary is missing the entire 'S' section for fear they may stumble across subtlety by mistake. Yet in their case, stargazing prog journeys right over the top have always seemed weirdly natural, as if they spent their first 20 years trapped in Patrick Moore's basement with only Rush and Rachmaninoff records for company.

Until now, that is. The Resistance is already garnering foaming reviews for its bombastic boldness and unhinged, magpie-like pecking at a slew of styles that shouldn't really work together but are forced into submission anyway. What's being glossed over, unfortunately, is the fact that the result is all but unlistenable. In trying desperately hard to appear suitably space age and futuristic, The Resistance actually sounds hopelessly old fashioned, the whiff of beige corduroy and old episodes of Tomorrow's World hanging over the first single 'Uprising', with its plundering of Blondie's 'Call Me', the Doctor Who theme tune and the glam stomp of 'Spirit In The Sky' by loathsome one hit wonders Doctor And The Medics. That, worryingly, is the album at its most palatable.

There are moments here — take opener 'Resistance' with its jaw-dropping insistence on mashing together the fetid remains of Queen, Erasure and Swiss trance goon Robert Miles — where the future is imagined from inside Brian May's head, which, as anyone who's even heard of We Will Rock You will explain, is a very, very bad thing indeed.

The whole album is the work of an evil taxidermist. Timberlake-ish R&B smooches with Depeche Mode in 'Undisclosed Desires' (although the idea of fire alarm-voiced frontman Matt Bellamy bringing sexy back would turn even the strongest stomach); the iconic drums from Ultravox's 'Vienna' are welded to 'Guiding Light', itself the disruptive little sister of 'Invincible' from Black Holes And Revelations; 'United States Of Eurasia' out-Queens Queen, but at least by offering a hysterical view of George Orwell's 1984 it explains Muse' passion for the worst bits of a fairly unlovable decade.

There's no doubting Muse's musical talent — Bellamy's not shy in coming forward with clunking great lumps of classical piano to rub against the jarring guitar solos. And it's fair to say they are unique among their contemporaries, so in a mainstream world of vanilla rock their prog invasion is to be applauded. But honestly, take the blinkers off and listen to it properly, away from the hype. It's just nonsense, isn't it?

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