“The Resistance,” the fifth studio album from British alternative outfit Muse, is an ambitious effort to say the least, departing from their previous work for a more electronic and classically inspired sound.
It seems clear to the listener that Muse is trying to make a landmark album of sorts: it is brimming with big ideas, a wide range of musical sounds, and one of the more impressive vocalists on the market today.
To the detriment of the album, however, is Matthew Bellamy. The character behind the ideas and that wonderful voice, he is an outspoken conspiracy theorist- he notably decried the Bush administration for the “inside job” of the 9/11 attacks – who lets his ideas on government get in the way of his otherwise lovely music.
Much of the album is set in an Orwellian future Europe where an oppressive government crushes the voice of the people. With lines like “rise up and take the power back, it’s time the fat cats had a heart attack” and “you and me fall in line to be punished for unproven crimes,” among others, Bellamy makes his distaste for big government known in as spectacularly cheesy a way as possible; one song is even titled “MK Ultra,” after the notorious CIA mind control program.
Lyricism has never been Muse’s strong point, but the clumsy and ridiculous lyrics dampen even the better tracks on the album, such as “Uprising,” the eponymous “Resistance,” and “I Belong to You.”
Most of the album’s better tracks stick to their alternative roots, though some of the more orchestral-inspired tracks are quite good as well.
“I Belong to You,” for instance, begins with a piano track laid over a French aria and features a smooth and warm bass clarinet solo. Others, like “The United States of Eurasia,” are played well enough, but try too hard to sound large and impressive. When mixed with abysmal songwriting, the track as a whole flops harder than a fat man jumping into a swimming pool. At times, the classical inspiration gives the songs the feel of a pale Queen imitation, which is just as exciting as it sounds.
To their credit though, the album’s final three tracks – three parts of the larger “Exogenesis: Symphony” – avoid the overtly political pitfalls from which other tracks suffered. Played with the help of over 40 musicians, “Exogenesis” begins with barely audible singing over the plaintive strains of violins and slowly swells as Bellamy’s voice grows louder.
The symphony reaches its peak near the midway point of its second part with the introduction of a guitar, though this gives way again to the softer, more restrained string and piano parts. It is an ambitious and well-executed work, though it still, like much of the rest of the album, gives the impression of being nothing new.
Certainly, “The Resistance” is a different direction for Muse, but one can hear the sounds and concepts elsewhere, and probably performed better as well. As a whole, Muse’s latest work, though not awful, is underwhelming at best.