Matthew Bellamy and Thom Yorke have a few things in common. The first is that they both are very adept at fusing lyrics to winding and interesting melodies. The second: I usually have no idea what they’re talking about. Both men front ‘rock’ bands that draw from the same pool of sound. There are moments of claustrophobia as well as bombast.
Muse is more of a ‘rock’ band in that they’re not afraid of make ‘the big noise’. It can be argued that Radiohead can make ‘the big noise’ too. Yes, they can…but they don’t really seem to enjoy it.
After the fifth or sixth listen through Absolution, some observations:
- Muse reminds me of Coldplay (or at least that “Politik” thing)
- “Time Is Running Out” comes from that Yorke school of paranoid vocalisms
- There’s an awful lot of yearning going on here (maybe like Creed-meets-Coldplay, but not nearly so icky)
- I can’t figure out the lyrics, but there’s obviously something important going on
The big noise? There are lots of them (the piano-pounding crescendos of “Apocalypse Please” for one) but the most resonant for me comes during “Stockholm Syndrome”. Now here is where Muse let go. The snarling opening guitar riff wouldn’t be out of place on a Rush record. Later in the tune are some crushing power chords that owe a lot to Teen Spirit-era Nirvana.
There is also one particularly great ‘small noise”: the string-driven ballad “Blackout”. If Freddie Mercury had done this song, we would have called it brilliant. Seriously.
I didn’t plan on this review to take the road of “is Muse a faux-Radiohead?”, it just sorta happened. The similarities between the two groups, vocalists in particular, can’t be ignored. In the grand scheme of it all, groups like Muse will survive on their ability to stand out. Have they accomplished that on Absolution? Uh..sort of.
(First posted on Mark Is Cranky)