British modern-prog rockers Muse have released a song from their upcoming album The Resistance to their fanbase in a tedious six-part cycle, executed in the form of a treasure hunt for USB sticks.
The song, called "United States of Eurasia," is the first hint of new Muse since the band made its US commercial breakthrough in the modern rock radio format with Black Holes and Revelations, which featured dance and pop-oriented songs "Starlight" and "Supermassive Black Hole." In style and spirit, though, the new song is a bit more like the first US hit off Black Holes, "Knights of Cydonia." This new track harks back to the grand chorus in "Knights" which was itself a hook borrowed from '70s glam rockers Queen. In the new track, Muse pushes the envelope of borrowing from Queen, by featuring Arabian-styled orchestral interludes, a "We Are the Champions"-style guitar-undermelody leading into the chorus, and finally histrionic chanting at the end of the track with heavily overdubbed choral vocals. And that's before it fades into a recitation of some Chopin, under the title of "+Collateral Damage." The lyrical content follows from Matt Bellamy's known fascination with New World Order and conspiracy theory, but is ultimately rather banal and predictable.
Fan and critic reaction to the song has been mixed, but somewhat critical of the degree to which the band borrows from Queen. Apparently these are reviewers who have never heard "Knights" (or seen its over-the-top video featuring cowboys), listened to their 2nd album Origin of Symmetry, or noticed Matt Bellamy's penchant for channeling Brian May in the solos of songs like "New Born" or "Hysteria." Ultimately, like "Knights," I suspect this is the most outlandish track on the album — a suspicion addressed by drummer Dom Howard in an interview in Q magazine: "Not everyone gets the Monty Python aspect to our music, but it's there…We like to have an over-the-top bit in each album where we will laugh our heads off each time we hear it."
The new Muse album itself remains a mystery. The first single, to be released in August and called "Uprising," was described in Mojo magazine as a "heavy rock take on Goldfrapp." The last three tracks of the album are a three-part symphony called "Exogenesis." No doubt the titles alone hint at a 1984-inspired journey through all the influences Muse have previously brought forth in their albums, and then some.
The album drops on September 15. Building off their sellouts of Madison Square Garden and L.A.'s Forum in 2007, the band is set to make its US television debut on the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards a week earlier.