The Resistance


Warner Brothers, 2009

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


With its relentless buzzsaw guitar, two-note bass riff, cheesy synthesizer figure, and mountains of handclaps and backing vocals, “Uprising” is one of the great rock songs of the last decade. It embodied everything great about what Muse had been and pointed the way to where they were headed.

It’s the sort of fist-pumping, crowd-singing arena-ready anthem that rock music effortlessly pulls off when a bit of ego is attached, and knowing this, Matt Bellamy writes lyrics vague enough that they can apply to anybody. “They will not control us / We will be victorious” he seethes, and he could be talking about people vs. corporations, proles vs. the government, outcasts vs. straight society, fans vs. the music industry, you name it. But Bellamy believes it – or seems to – and it’s hard not to crank up the radio and shout along with him against whoever your oppressor is.

“Uprising” ends up the opening salvo of Muse’s fifth album, which ends up being their most audacious and overblown disc yet. While each previous album had hinted at this direction, the disc pulls out all the stops across its 54 minutes and 11 songs; sci-fi-inspired lyrics, a three-part rock symphony with an overture, loads of echo and overdubs, hard rock interspersed with classical music without a second thought. It builds on the lofty ambitions and sounds of prime U2, Queen (an oft-cited reference with this trio) and even classic prog-rock, though it’s nowhere near as ego-driven or meandering.

That coherent focus is essential to making this disc work, even if the focus on sound and fury can sometimes obscure memorable hooks. “Resistance” smartly segues its on-edge verses into a vocal tic pre-chorus and then an explosive actual chorus. Bellamy’s voice covers octaves and runs rings around itself, like Radiohead but balls out and unapologetic. “Undisclosed Desires” tries to mesh a hip-hop beat with an indie electronic rock song; it’s not that great, but it shows depth and ambition.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“United States Of Eurasia,” meanwhile, is the most gonzo moment here, shamelessly borrowing from Queen’s “We Are The Champions” then adding a vaguely Indian string section after the choruses while instruments zoom around. Bellamy then stops midsong to tinkle out a pleasant piano section (subtitled “Collateral Damage”), the calm after the storm, and though abrupt, it’s quite lovely and allows for a moment of breath. It then sets the stage for the strident “Guiding Light,” heroic ‘80s guitar solo and all, all rock god posturing but lots of fun. Frankly, with the serious nature of so much indie, mainstream, and alternative rock, it’s good to see some dudes having fun and reaching for the stars.

To be fair, this grandiosity is why some misguided people didn’t like U2 in their day, or Queen, or Muse; three guys in a garage bashing out raw two-minute songs is real rock, not this sort of pomp and theatrics. So if you didn’t like Muse before, you definitely won’t now. But for most others, this disc will be a hoot. Plus, no matter who you are, “Uprising” and “Unnatural Selection” will be highlights of your playlist if they aren’t already; the latter is definitely, defiantly old-school Muse, but with a staccato rhythm not unlike those on Queens Of The Stone Age’s Songs For The Deaf as interpreted by Brian May. It’s a rush, man, and at that point you’re only halfway through the disc.

“MK Ultra” just treads water but “I Belong To You” is fun and faintly ridiculous, sort of like Bowie’s “Changes” riff married to a Maroon 5 song if Maroon 5 was a lot cooler than they actually are. The song unfortunately stops dead in the middle for a ballad sung in French, and though it returns to the main riff it doesn’t recapture the momentum. The three-part “Exogenesis” suite is something that Bellamy evidently had in his head for some time, and damned if the trio doesn’t pull it off beautifully, switching from gorgeous classical passages to huge guitar riffs to appropriately soaring vocals. It won’t be anybody’s favorite Muse song, but it’s not designed to be a hit (like “Uprising” is); it’s designed to be a showstopping finale that pulls out all the stops. Less charitable listeners might call it Muse Goes Broadway (especially during the piano-led second movement), but most will be reminded of Queen’s more bombastic moments, and all will be heartbroken during Bellamy’s lovely playing on the “Redemption” section that comprises the third movement. 

Yes, Muse has earned comparisons to other great bands before it, but those bands operated in different decades, and Muse is doing their thing here and now when few other bands are. The Resistance is their best album to date, a flawed but compelling art-rock wonder of a hard rock album.

Rating: B

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