I feel that I’m a popular music aficionado, but I’m a newcomer to Muse, a three-piece English hard/neo-progressive rock band. They’ve been popular overseas for a several years but only recently charted in the U.S. with their 2003 Absolution LP, which was their third studio album.
Singer Matt Bellamy reminds me a bit of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, except with better (higher) range. He is truly a talented singer, and from what I can tell, his voice holds up in a live setting (although Muse does use a lot of vocal distortion, so it’s hard to tell). Some of Muse’s harmonies are actually more reminiscent of Queen than any other band. Honestly, they’re not really a lot like any other band in mainstream music, hard rock tendencies aside.
From what I’ve read, Muse is really a love-hate type band among fans. The haters point to their supposed bombast and musical experimentation, especially with Black Holes & Revelations, but I actually find their music to be moderately accessible and highly interesting. Lyrically, they don’t do anything revolutionary, but it’s not like the lyrics are overblown or cliched. Bellamy’s guitar work is quite impressive, although I was hoping for a more rhythmically diverse effort. The same goes for Chris Wolstenholme’s bass playing and Dom Howard’s drumming.
In terms of individual songs, singles “Knights of Cydonia,” “Supermassive Black Hole,” and “Starlight” are all standout songs, and they’re all quite different. “Knights” is the song that reminds me of Queen; “Starlight” is fairly straightforward, with a sort of majestic quality; “Supermassive Black Hole” is just plain catchy, and it helps that I have no hope of ever singing that high, even in falsetto. I would also throw in “Take a Bow,” “Invincible,” and “Exo-Politics” as great tracks.
On the whole, the album works. It’s quite interesting and clearly a cut above the other currently popular works in American rock. Black Holes may not be the greatest showcase of talent, and it probably won’t rank among my top 10 favorite CDs when all is said and done, but I do plan on leaving it in my car’s CD changer for the indefinite future.
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Muse: Black Holes & Revelations (Amazon)