The first Muse song I ever heard was a little ditty called Stockholm Syndrome. It was 2003. My oldest brother Mike (a pretty awesome musician in his own right) gets due credit for making me sit down and listen to his latest discovery; I don’t think he realized how much it would stick. Like him, I was mesmerized by the combination of powerful vocals, a borderline classical melody, a bit of electro-lace, and unbelievably awesome guitar work. When Muse wants to rock, it’s the kind of rock that shreds lesser guitars.
I couldn’t get the song out of my headspace, so I picked up Absolution shortly thereafter. While I was absorbing the album for the first time, I distinctly remember thinking, “Man, whoever the keyboardist is, I love that guy!” And: “Man, whoever the guitarist is, I love that guy!” And then I watched a live video and found out that one guy was the lead singer, and also the guitarist, and also the keyboardist, and that there were only three total members in the entire band, and they played like demi-gods.
I’d just met a lifelong love.
Since then, Muse has continued to throw me curveballs. Each new album they release dumbfounds their fans. (Perhaps that is too kind a term: Muse frustrates their fans to no end.) No two albums are ever remotely alike. If you came on board loving a particular sound, better get used to the fact that they’ll never duplicate it. But that unpredictability is exactly what’s held my attention for so long. I never know which direction they’ll march off in next – or which ten directions, rather. Their catalogue is incredibly diverse at this point.
Some people hear Muse and, based on the absurd level of bombast in many of their songs, assume they’re full of themselves. “Pretentious” is a word I often see attached to Muse in reviews. The funny thing is, in the nine years I’ve followed them, they’ve never once been anything less than gracious and self-deprecating in interviews. Dom says that whenever a new album comes around, they purposefully record at least one song that makes them laugh every time they hear it.
Ultimately, that’s why I love them. They’re not afraid to have fun, which makes critics give them the side-eye. They write whatever entertains them, whatever they feel strongly about, whatever strikes their fancy. Whether it’s beautiful, silly, grandiose, funky, or sentimental, it’s all allowed equal breathing room. As a bonus, their lyrics aren’t afraid to go all crackpot sci-fi on occasion, talking about aliens, mind control, and space exploration alongside your run-of-the-mill conspiracy theories and political revolutions. Oh, with a love song thrown in there from time to time.
I’ve enjoyed each of the band’s new releases over the years in different ways. But after listening to The 2nd Law for the past two weeks (it officially releases today), I must say this is the first Muse album I’ve loved so completely, from start to finish, since Absolution. Which is strange, because it’s definitely the most experimental and off-the-wall Muse has ever been. For the most part, it’s not the kind of music that originally drew me to them. But I still LOVE IT and can’t get enough.
I encourage all interested parties to watch the awesome making-of video below. It’s worth your time:
Bonus: it’s also quite hilarious.
Random factoids about the new songs from MuseWiki:
- Panic Station is their tribute to Prince, Bowie, and the ’80s in general.
- Save Me and Liquid State are both about Chris Wolstenholme’s struggle with alcoholism (and he SINGS on them; first time someone other than Bellamy has done lead vocals on a Muse track).
- Follow Me was written for Matt’s firstborn son, and includes a sample of his fetal heartbeat.
- Animals is an apt critique of Wall Street (complete with samples taken from the trading floor).
- Supremacy is about mankind losing its supremacy over the Earth as “the seas rise up and energy shortages cause global desperation.” HA.
- Unsustainable and Isolated System are two of the most awesome tracks the band has ever produced, and I could listen to them on repeat until entropy successfully destroys the universe. Oh, wait, that’s not from MuseWiki.
I will never not love this band.