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Muse - The Resistance CD (album) cover




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3.27 | 384 ratings

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5 stars Cliché and Cohesiveness

Is it weird how reluctant I was to publicise this review? How embarrassed I was of revealing my scandalous opinion that this, Muse's most ridiculous and overblown album is not only their best, but one of the best alternative rock albums of the modern age? This album is not only insulted by music aficionados everywhere, but by the Muse fans themselves. Even before I was a proper music fan, I would be reluctant to admit The Resistance as my favourite from the British 3-piece, due to the imminent onslaught of horrible slurs about its apparent awfulness.

Even yesterday, when I decided to do this review, I thought "I bet I won't like it as much and I'll drop it to 4.5". But I didn't. Because it isn't. And I'm beginning to think, much like the praise of Trout Mask Replica, the criticism of The Resistance is all an elaborate ruse to stop people from liking a mainstream band, or worse, a mainstream band's recent material?.

The thing is, if you hate Muse, you're going to hate this, and I forgive you. They are decidedly over the top in every way, they think they're so much cooler than everyone, and Matthew Bellamy is a bit of a twat. I'm not here to argue with you, because they appear to be one of those bands you either love or hate, and even I, as one of the ones who loves them, can see most of the reasons for hate. We have the ridiculous lyrics, the blatantly Queen-inspired choral chants, the unnecessary Thom Yorke impressions, the stupid piano interludes, it's like prog for the masses. Even though musically, Muse may not be prog, in mind they are. Look, they even have the stupid late-career transition toward pop music.

Now, the real people I have a problem with are the Muse fans who laud Black Holes And Revelations yet shit on The Resistance. With the obvious exceptions of "Map Of The Problematique" and "Knights of Cydonia" (Muse's two best songs), Resistance trumps Black Holes in almost every aspect. In fact, I can even argue that there are no weak tracks at all on The Resistance. Or, at least, 13 year old me didn't think so.

I hate to let the opinions of others get to me, but I'm afraid they slightly have. There are two main things that people thought were wrong with The Resistance, and both of them were cured by me discovering this album before my full musical education. Cliché and cohesiveness.

Of course, the argument against cliché is simple, I didn't know of the clichés when I first heard it. Sure, I hear them now, but that doesn't stop me from loving them, simply because I loved them before. I'm not sure what my opinion of The Resistance would be if I first heard it today, but I hope it wouldn't be too different because of that.

Cohesiveness is put down to something I am ashamed of, but naturally all of us go through it at some stage. There was a point in my life when I didn't listen to music as albums. So, I never fully got the idea of what people meant when they said it was trying to do too much. And it most certainly is. You can't shove an electropop song between an epic rock anthem and a Queen piano ballad. It just doesn't work. And as ambitious as it is, going from piano-pop to classical performance to what I think is a symphony(?) is a bit stupid as well. But I'm not here to accuse Muse of being anything but Muse here. They can be as ridiculous and over-the-top as they want, and I will still love them. The Resistance, at moments, feels like a fantastic album that flows well, and at other times it feels like Bellamy has had a dying urge to make a tribute to all of his favourite artists at once, resulting in something a bit odd, but when treated as individual tracks, there is almost no weakness here.

The album opens with "Uprising", which, despite being excessively overplayed, no one can deny being a great song. The hard pumping beat and distinctly Doctor Who-styled synth riff make for a great track. As with their earlier albums, Bellamy's rather unnecessary political lyrics run through The Resistance, with some of his worst appearing on Uprising, "endless red tape to keep the truth confined", "If you could flick a switch and open your third eye, you'd see that we should never be afraid to die" are pretty bad, but aside from that, this is one of Bellamy's best songs vocally in the band, even though the crowd vocals and cheesy clapping kind of kill it.

"Resistance" opens with one of my favourite piano parts from Muse, and really is one hell of a track. The epic stadium rock is so apparent in this, with every section getting bigger and bigger until the insanely over-the-top climax. The lyrics here deal with Winston Smith's secret relationship with Julia in Nineteen Eighty-Four, which although is still singing about 'love' (my least favourite lyrical topic, even more than politics), it's quite a strange perspective. I never really saw the true greatness in this song when I was first getting into the album, but I really hear it now. The violent climax is one of the heaviest moments on the album, and is possibly Muse's best climax, which is really saying something. Like in "Uprising", though, a couple of moments ruin it, specifically here the "It could be wrong" backing vocals during the pre-chorus, which are a bit stupid. Another thing I love about this song is the use of electronic-inspired drumming, and the toms during the second verse all sound fantastic. This calls back to the last electro-inspired Muse song, "Map Of The Problematique" from Black Holes And Revelations, which I call one of the greatest songs ever written.

"Undisclosed Desires" is a bit of a dividing track. It's a pop song, which obviously alienated the old Muse fans, but even though Muse have done pop songs before, this is an electropop song, with the synths and drum machine and bad love lyrics and all. But all of my dislike of the songs premise and all, this actually is quite a good pop song. The synth hook is pretty decent, and the chorus is catchy enough to justify radio play, it's just that it feels so out of place here. Muse often feel like they want to exercise all of their influences all at once, which isn't really good for album material.

On previous albums, Muse had shown a pretty apparent influence from Queen. They're a stadium rock band that rely on explosive and ridiculous music, so of course they take some influence. Already on this album, the bombastic nature of the title track draws parallels to Queen, but this here is where people start to get picky about it. Whereas "Resistance" is a Muse song with Queen influence, "United States Of Eurasia" has so much Queen it's got its shirt off already. The real bad part is when we hear the exact two chords used in the pre-chorus of "We Are The Champions", possibly Queen's most well known song aside from "Bohemian Rhapsody". It's one thing to use cheesy vocal layering like Queen do, it's another to use the exact same chords in exactly the same way, and expect to get away with it. Because once you hear that, you say, "Hey, this sounds like Queen", the rest of the song the idea stuck in your head and you can't get it out. You start to hear Queen. Even the odd Arabic-influenced part after the chorus seems like something Queen would do if they existed today. And it's not as if Muse are a band that can't write their own material or have their own style, because they've proven that with Origin of Symmetry and Absolution. Really, "United States Of Eurasia" isn't a bad song, but it was always 'that song' for me, the one that isn't as good as the others. The piano section at the end, "Collateral Damage" may be inventive, but you still think that Bellamy could have written his own part, not just plagiarise Chopin.

Now, part of my quest to understand the hatred The Resistance gets, I've found a lot of people blame "Guiding Light" for it. I have absolutely no idea why, it seems great. Sure, it's cheesy, but this is Muse we're talking about. It may be starting to get to me though, or at least to a couple of my friends, who are now on the "Guiding Light sucks" bandwagon. To be honest though, I can't really justify why I like it either, but the only part that I don't like is the unnecessary repeating of the chorus line for ages, and obviously the solo that's so Queen I'm pretty sure Brian May actually wrote it.

And now we get to the section of the album that I really am confused by. "Unnatural Selection" and "MK Ultra" are two of the most Muse songs Muse have ever written, and would perfectly on both Origin of Symmetry and Absolution. They're heavy, they're epic, they both have stunning riffs, with "MK Ultra" owning what I call my second favourite riff of all time. People criticise "Unnatural Selection" for being "New Born Part 2", so I say WHY ARE YOU COMPLAINING NEW BORN IS A GREAT SONG. It took me a while to really appreciate the random break in "Unnatural Selection", but it's actually quite nice and well-placed, and I may even like it more than "New Born". Although my hatred for the Hammond Organ is well-known, it's quite nice as a textural instrument here, which is the only acceptable use of such a hideous sound. "MK Ultra" is one of Muse's greatest songs, and is almost a culmination of everything that's great about them. Bellamy's guitar playing is often attacked by guitar purists saying that he's not good enough to be praised or whatever, but you try coming up with a riff as good as that first one and I'll be impressed. Although based in 4/4 timing, it fiddles between runs of 3 and 4, jumping up and down scales before resolving in an epic fashion. It also involves some of their best uses of strings; with the violin part during "they are breaking through" being particularly awesome. Howard's drumming is also great, nailing one of my favourite fills just before the second chorus, and also some great hi-hat work during the heavy outro. Bellamy's ridiculous lyrics are at some of their best here, and although I don't agree with his conspiracy garbage, they do actually fit the music to be honest. Another fantastic chorus to pile on top of that awesome riff, and both these songs have pretty decent heavy breakdowns, so I'm not sure why people are saying Muse lost their metal edge.

And suddenly it's pop again. God, listening to "I Belong To You" after the bludgeoning outro of "MK Ultra" is a bit strange, but although out of place, it's again a pretty decent pop song. It's piano-based, unlike "Undisclosed Desires", meaning I like it more, but the cheesy backing vocals and lyrics again kill it. The randomly unnecessary break into French singing is a bit odd, and although you have to praise Bellamy for even thinking of it in the first place, it's a bit self-indulgent and stupid, but I enjoy the slow build back into the chorus.

The final three tracks make up Muse's longest song to date, the almost 13 minute "Exogenesis", which appears to be their most progressive song yet, also. I remember being so utterly impressed by this, that it was even one of the songs that got me to look up this 'progressive rock' thing I kept seeing around. My adoration for it has since waned, but it still is one of the best pieces of music from Bellamy's ego. The first movement, "Overture" is heavily string-based, but the low brass and tympani underneath give it a great epic feel. The story of "Exogenesis" is loosely based around what will happen when humanity has to leave Earth, and when the string riff comes in at 1:20, it really does give the feeling of sci-fi film. It builds, the drums slowly appearing from underneath, growing, and then?..

It's back. God, how I've missed it. For someone with such a distinct wail, The Resistance has surprisingly little of Bellamy's fantastic falsetto, but "Overture" features his best falsetto part yet. Yes, even better than the chorus of "Micro Cuts" or the part before the big riff in "New Born". This is my warm-up track for vocal recording, because it is truly phenomenal to sing. I don't have much of a falsetto voice, but hell I try to every time this comes on. Again, when the guitar comes in, you hear Queen, but Matt's ridiculous wailing really overpowers it. It's a pity that the rest of "Exogenesis" doesn't stack up to "Overture", but this remains one of their best songs yet.

"Cross-Pollination" opens with one of Bellamy's blatantly Chopin-inspired piano ramblings, calling back to the one in "Butterflies & Hurricanes", but not quite reaching its level of intensity. This is much more of a 'song' than either of the other parts, but still feels very symphony-esque, even in the heavy part, because of the string layers beneath the guitar. Unfortunately, the Queen influence on the guitar piles all over whenever it comes in, and the lyrics here aren't exactly poetic. Chopin returns for a bit before drifting out.

The final movement, "Redemption", while being a nice track, doesn't feel as bombastic as it should, being an album (and symphony) closer. Instead, we get a nice piano track layered with strings. It builds quite nicely, calling on classical-inspired rock music like Godspeed You! Black Emperor quite a bit in the instrumentation, with Dominic Howard's atmospheric drumming being a highlight.

"Exogenesis" doesn't really feel like a symphony, as much as a couple of experiments in orchestral music, and I feel if Bellamy committed to making a full album in this style it might be great, but we know that won't happen.

In conclusion, as much as I have pointed out flaws in The Resistance, I still honestly think it is both a 5 star album and Muse's best album. It's messy and a bit inconsistent, and tries way too many styles, but I like the songs enough to give it that full score. Maybe in time, when I prune my 5's down, I'll drop it, but for now, I can't recommend it enough. A lot of people will dislike this, and I can understand that now (aside from "Unnatural Selection" and "MK Ultra", those are objectively awesome songs), but this is Muse and this is what we should expect from them.


Originally written for my Facebook page/blog:

Gallifrey | 5/5 |


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