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Muse - Black Holes And Revelations CD (album) cover




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3.70 | 493 ratings

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4 stars Muse represent the return, with a big bang, of excess to mainstream rock. At the end of the 70s, rock denounced the heady excess of that decade and rock musicians repeatedly attempted to forge a paradigm that would steer clear of excess. It began with the stripped down aggression of punk, moved to the corporate flavour of the 80s which got suffocating enough for grunge to flourish in the 90s. But with Muse even sneaking into the London Olympics - a pretty apt choice in some ways - the big, bigger and biggest kind of rock is back. They are way over the top and bombastic but they also play heavy and hard and their dazzle is hard to resist.

Muse are frequently, and inexplicably, compared, to Radiohead but the one band they resemble most is Queen. Even when singer, guitarist and keyboardist Matt Bellamy is not utilizing his attractive falsetto, the music is strongly influenced by Queen and the only reason this may not be so immediately evident is the contemporary production. What they do not have, unfortunately, that excessive bands of the 70s like Queen, ELP and Led Zeppelin had is a certain non chalance. Even if they aren't necessarily dead serious about their music, they do sound like it. I have nothing whatsoever against artists who take their music seriously, except that it doesn't gel so well with the ultra-bombastic sound of Muse. Then again, they don't seem to share Queen's overt fondness for pastiche, ELP's fetish for never ending instrumental sections and with all his flaws, Bellamy is still a lot less annoying than Plant. So one takes the good and cops the bad when it comes to these over the top bands because things would get a bit dull if everybody was restrained and subtle all the time.

Coming to this, their fourth album, as some reviews have mentioned, Muse seem to want to expand their sound here and can at times appear to be trying too hard to do so. This makes for a rather inconsistent affair with some killer tracks and some not so hot ones, which in totality don't offer a wholesome experience. Black Holes and Revelations is more of a collection of tracks than a well put together album.

Consider that Starlight sounds a lot like a mellow U2 track. It's melodic and pleasant and altogether not at all bad to listen to but the thing is, it sounds odd following close behind Take a Bow, which with its trademark ostentatious keyboard arpeggios is about as Muse as Muse gets. Again, the haunting aftertaste of Starlight is quickly disrupted by the funky dance track Supermassive Black Hole. In its own right, the track works very well with Bellamy's falsetto in full flow but it doesn't make for a cohesive combination. And as I have mentioned before, their dead serious bombast can get a bit tiresome towards the end.

Which is a pity because as you get deeper into the album, it is more rewarding. Assassin is a brutal rocker almost approaching the power of a thrash metal track. City of Delusion is another rollicking romp with a kickass guitar breakdown in the middle. But for Bellamy's despairing wail "Destroy them", it would probably work even better. Knights of Cydonia makes you overlook the ridiculously over the top settings with a galloping groove. As a mid-20s guy, I am already too old to have checked out this album at the proper age, which is, ideally, around 18 or so. Man, I would have gone wild over these tracks at that time. Sadly with experience, comes a bit of the jaded "been there, done that, next" attitude to music.

So, getting back to the album, it has several really strong tracks and if you are already familiar with the band, you are probably not going to be disappointed with this album (or you have already listened to it many times long before this review!). But its maddening inconsistency may leave you feeling less satisfied than you might have been otherwise with this album. Considering this aspect and also that Muse ultimately don't break a whole lot of new ground with this album, it's 4 stars from me.

rogerthat | 4/5 |


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