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Muse - Absolution CD (album) cover




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3.85 | 483 ratings

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4 stars How do three people make so much noise?

MUSE are here, I suspect, because of their sheer intensity and presence. They incorporate many of the sensibilities familiar to progressive music, but do so in bite-sized morsels often mistaken for pop songs. With few exceptions, they are not. They are well-crafted, spirited and above all passionate rock songs that ring every bell in the listener's mind. Big-scale sounds in small-scale packages. Anyone who objects to this exuberance is simply a curmudgeon.

'Absolution' is a fair step up from their previous two offerings. The album begins by tearing four new orifices in your psyche: the four-pronged attack of 'Apocalypse Please,' 'Time Is Running Out', 'Sing For Absolution' and 'Stockholm Syndrome' is one of the most potent slabs of music you'll come across in popular culture. To my mind, these opening twenty minutes are packed with more innovation, cleverness and sheer musical glee than THE BEATLES ever managed.

'Apocalypse Please' thunders in with a cataclysmic piano line, a seismic shock. This is the end? Already? I know what MATTHEW BELLAMY means: we're not in for an easy ride here. He calls for a miracle, and he's delivering it in crashing chords and swirling synths, rock painted passionate progressive in a way that few of the inheritors of the progressive label can equal. I already have my money's worth.

'Time Is Running Out', you betcha, and the music communicates MUSE's sense of urgency - and, finally, the guitar arrives. Such teasers. They're maturing, not firing all their guns at once, letting a song build naturally. This song is a splendid number. BELLAMY has a wonderful falsetto, which fills the sonic gap normally occupied by a lead guitar. Then the song runs out and the extraordinarily beautiful 'Sing For Absolution' begins. This is BELLAMY at his lyrical and vocal peak. The track builds into a masterpiece, and the vocals are sheer genius. Not that he has a great voice - far from it. But rock music works best when the voice isn't sweet: there's plenty of roughness in the delivery, including the ubiquitous gasp for breath, and a sharpness to his notes that adds an edge to the music.

Can they produce a fourth memorable track in a row? 'Stockholm Syndrome' is the best of them all, a fierce behemoth with a monster riff and wonderful rhythm. What a hook in the chorus! And they lead us magnificently through the song using every trick in modern music's vast lexicon.

The album inevitably falls away a little from here, a result of MUSE front-loading their albums. It falls away literally with the next track, as MUSE realise they need to give us time to recover, to catch our breath before the next sonic assault. 'Hysteria' is that assault, with a staggering riff as gorgeous and epic as you've ever heard, and another hook chorus. And there's still 'Butterflies', 'Endlessly' and 'Thoughts of a Dying Atheist' to come. There are a few below-par tracks, but that's almost inconsequential. It all sounds a little 'samey' on first listen, because BELLAMY's voice is front and centre, but give the album a few listens - each track's personality will emerge.

In a word, epic.

russellk | 4/5 |


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