Saturday, October 3, 2009

Irresistably mad - Muse's latest album

Muse’s latest album Resistance is, by any measure, pretty mad.

You push the play button, the energy and the sounds cranks up as if it has just had a turbo shot of adrenalin, and you are off and running in the world of glam rock, reincarnated in the 21st century, with its message of mass uprising against the conspiratorial machine of a corporate world. There is perhaps more than a touch of irony that this message is told to us through some of the most elaborate sounds that the rock industry has ever produced – big sounds, whirring with polished electronics, organs, snyths – a big sophisticated sound that is a long way from the streets and factory floors of revolution.

But who cares? It’s great music, with sweeping blockbuster melodies, strong beats bashing on percussion as big as life, and an endless catalogue of ideas about how to take everything from the past, mix it in with everything from the present, and to end up sounding like everything that will be the future.

Listen, for example, to “United States of Eurasia”, with its massive anthem-like vocal harmonies, soaring over symphonic strings, expansive electronics, all suddenly giving way to the sad, pensive sounds of a Chopin nocturne with a kind of post-apocalyptic rumble in the background. Could it really be possible to throw anything more into one song?

The songs always take unexpected turns into unexpected corners, down unexpected troughs, like the way the steady rock of “MK Ultra” suddenly starts to go flat, as if its music is crumbling to pieces along with the minds that fall apart as “they” break through the wall.

And then there’s the way the hammering noise of “I belong to you” abruptly falls away and is taken over by an aria from Saint-Saëns’ opera Samson et Delilah (itself eventually transformed into hard rock, too, of course).

The album ends with a three part “symphony” called Exogenis, which at times sounds almost like something Philip Glass would write if he had access to hallucinogenic drugs, at times like a piano concerto written by the love child of Tchaikovsky and Freddie Mercury, and at times like what a real rock symphony should always have been.

Resistance is over-the-top, ostentatious. Even when its subtle it’s not subtle. It probably has enough delusions of grandeur, enough paranoia and enough megalomania to be certifiable. But sometimes it’s the madness of art that makes it so sensational.

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