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Muse - Origin of Symmetry CD (album) cover




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3.97 | 436 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars MUSE spent most of the 90s building up their fanbase after a surprise win in battle of the bands that sent a semi-serious band into becoming one of the top British bands of the 21st century. On their debut "Showbiz," the trio of Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard took their native Britain by storm with their unique take on alternative rock meets progressive pop. While showcasing their ambitious musical adventurousness on the debut, things hadn't quite simmered down into that addictive MUSE formula that propelled them into the next level, which is exactly where their second album ORIGIN OF SYMMETRY took them. On this album, they ratcheted up their experimental practices manyfold all the while finding more cohesive ways of fermenting them into a more organic formula. The album title signified a more intellectual approach in lyrical themes as it came from the fertile conceptual mind of theoretical physicist Michio Kaku from his best selling book "Hyperspace." The real MUSE had come of age.

While the band was becoming all the rage in their homeland, there were problems getting their music across the pond due to the fact that their US record label didn't care too much for Matt Bellamy's idiosyncratic soulful styled falsetto and demanded the band re-record for better airplay reception. After the band refused so did the label and the album would not be released in the US until 2010 therefore never managed to attract a North American audience as it had in the UK. Stylistically MUSE went for broke on ORIGIN OF SYMMETRY which found drummer Dominic Howard expanding his drum kit exponentially and even tried a little balaphone and animal bone percussion on "Screenager." The closer "Megalomania" displayed the unmistakable pipe organ and a whole army of new instruments with guest musicians were employed to bring an over-the-top bombast to MUSE's insatiable pursuit for new dynamics and timbres filling every nook and cadence to the maximally allowed allotment, thus there are healthy doses of violin, viola, cello, vibraphone as well as the expected rock guitar, piano, keyboards, bass and drums. Add to this all the mixing and production teams and what you have here is a seriously professional album that on paper sounds overproduced but in reality delivers quite brilliantly.

As if they were advertising their coming of age, the appropriately titled opener "New Born" goes for the gusto although gently treads through various movements as to ratchet up the tension instead of burying the listener with their barrage of creativity. Right away it's clear that MUSE were adding New Romantic period classical music with particular emphasis on Chopin-esque keyboard melodies as the backbone for their bouncy energetic rhythmic groove that borrowed a bit from the 70s NU-ENRG disco era and added a little tango bounce to it. Matt Bellamy found his perfect stomping ground with an 80s Bono (U2) passionate vocal style that found a touch of Prince falsetto. With a healthy dose of ostinato bass grooves, sizzlin' guitar riffs that shift from hard rock to funk with wah-wah-ish solos, "New Born" is an instantly addictive hooky progressive pop track that is incessant in its ratcheting up effect and throws in a few surprises for good measure. "Bliss" follows up with the famous synthesizer bombast that harkens back to 70s ELO but the melodic underpinning continues on with the classical meets rock fusion, interesting dynamic variations and stylistic changes.

"Space Dementia" debuts the unaccompanied Chopin-esque piano chops which Bellamy cranks out with concert pianist precision, a trait that would continue to develop well onto future albums. "Hyper Music" cranks out some serious noise and distortion and starts out with a beefy Hendrix guitar riff which the band skillfully weave into the classically infused rock sound that they call their own. "Plug In Baby" follows suit at least in the noise department but becomes one of those signature passionate vocal pleas with the heavy guitar and bass backup. "Citizen Erased" unleashes the heavy alternative rock minus the fancy shmancy classical leanings with Bellamny cranking out his conspiracy laden lyrics about the powers that be keeping us all down, down, down with the rotten ass system! Yet another track that skillfully alternates heavy rock with more downtempo chilled out contemplative moments.

"Screenager" is a fairly weird track with the use of a baraphone and animal bones for percussion. Also different is a classical guitar piece that is on full space rock mode with clean echoey reverb and set to chill mode, well at least until the NU-ENRG synthesizers runs create a hyperactive backdrop adding an interesting contrast. "Dark Shines" has a bit of a spaghetti western feel in the guitar riff as it remains mellow, but as it picks up steam it creates a hard rock tango which is hardly apparent but if you follow it, it has Astor Piazzolla meets Dick Dale surf rock doing spaghetti western all over it! "Feeling Good" goes for a loungy jazzy blues feel and reminds me most of Mike Patton's style on some of his 90s projects (such as solo, Faith No More and the later Mr Bungle.) "Megalomania" takes the MUSE style established on the album and adds a seriously heavy church organ sound although it for the most parts retains that sea sailing up and down ride the waves sort of groove. They actually recorded this piece at St. Mary the Virgin's Church in Bathwick, England thus showing MUSE's restless ambitiousness to walk the extra mile to make diverse and eclectic music that both captures the listener off guard as well as instantly hook them with infectious grooves and catchy pop hooks.

ORIGIN OF SYMMETRY was a grower for me. While certain tracks toward the beginning were instantly contagious and had me hopping and bopping like doing the Crocodile Rock, some of the tracks on the second half had to sink in to win me over. Many of the ideas presented on this album would be further developed into more satisfying crescendoes on futures albums such as "Black Holes And Revelations" and "The Resistance" however that does not mean for a minute that things are not presented in a perfectly balanced way without being more evolved. In fact, the simplicity of some of the tracks here only demonstrate how skillfully intertwined the disparate seeds of inspiration are crafted together like a fine woven tapestry. While there are times such as on "Citizen Erased," Bellamny's vocal style can sound more like Tiny Tim ready to belt out "Tiptoe Through The Tulips" rather than some seriously crafted progressive pop, they never go too far into parody territory to detract the overall listening experience. While i personally favor the above mentioned albums that ARE more sophisticated, ORIGIN OF SYMMETRY has ultimately won me over with the collection of over-the-top bombast that i find irresistible. While this album would make them huge in the UK, the millennial British invasion would have to wait just a wee bit longer.

4.5 but round UP!

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |


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