Tuesday, September 15, 2009

THE RESISTANCE - First Impressions

All right folks, so I finally got my paws on Muse's new album, The Resistance! Because I can't contain my excitement, I'm going to post a running review as I listen to it for the first time, song by song. Here we go! It's below the cut, you know what to do!
Update: Upon listening to it some more, I have more thoughts to add. So I just put them under the category "On Second Thought" after each song.


My first impression of the song was that the beat sounds a little like the one behind Britney Spears' Womanizer. Ever since then, I've had a hard time taking this song seriously! I like it though, it's right catchy to be sure, and so far I'd consider it this album's Supermassive Black Hole though admittedly, I liked Supermassive better.
On second thought: I do like this one a lot. After listening to it some more, I realized that I love the stomping beat and Matt's uncharacteristically low voice, combined with some of the best and most moving lyrics I've ever heard from them. "Another packaged lie to keep us trapped in greed / And all the green belts wrapped around our minds / And endless red tape to keep the truth confined," and "If you could flick the switch and open your third eye / You'd see that we should never be afraid to die." This is an anthem, folks. You can riot to this song, and I love that. I thought his voice was sexy with conviction here, and I thought the same about Supermassive Black Hole... except he falsettos all the way through Supermassive and stays low on Uprising. I just find him sexy, I guess.

Ooooh, this is nice so far: a simple piano melody with a running beat, sounds very Muse-y. All right, at the chorus, and I think this is a love song? A little bit like Black Holes & Revelations' Invincible. It sounds a little more mainstream in the guitar riffs, but the running tom beats on the drum and a few falling tones from the vocals are very much reminiscent of Muse.

Undisclosed Desires
I'm not feelin' this one as much. I cheated a little and read The Union's (my school newpaper) review of the album that hailed this song as the "poppiest song Muse has created to date, and it sounds like something that should be played in a club rather than on this album." I probably wouldn't even put it there, I'd much rather dance to Uprising.

United States of Eurasia (+Collateral Damage)
Now THIS is the kind of Muse song I get excited over! When I first heard it on a morning drive to school over the radio, I went nuts. There have long been comparisons to Queen when it came to Muse, and this song takes those whispered comparisons and blows them out of the water! (Why split these states, when there can BE OOOOONNNLY OOOONNE?) The Middle Eastern influence is gorgeous and lends itself well to the music, and Matthew Bellamy's piercing voice paints a strange picture of the future with a hopeful tone, underlined with an almost militaristic feel. Did I say that right? Does it make sense? I could see Russian Supremacist styled posters being made about Eurasia, to this song. Oh, and the ending is simply gorgeous. The Chopin Nocturne and the barely-audible children playing the background closes the song out nicely. I'm not normally one for long endings and I usually skip over them, but I can't help but stick around for this over and over again.
On second thought: Yea, still my favorite song off the album.

Guiding Light
Oh wow, so the zooming jet from the last track zooms right into the beginning of this song! Very nice :D So far, very different from what I've heard from them, but I like it. There's a LOT of synth, and the beat is nice, but minimal. Bellamy's voice is just floating over this river of synthesizers, it's a nice effect, and the bigness of the sound matches his soaring vocals well.
On second thought: This sounds a bit hymnal, don't you think? It's a nice effect.

Unnatural Selection
Organ chords. Matt's voice through a... megaphone? It wouldn't be the first (ahem, Feeling Good). Oh holy crap, a stomping beat that reminds me a little of Newborn right here. Now THIS sounds like Muse's older sound, but less unrefined to be sure, like they've been there done that, and now they're back to do it again, but cleaner. It's around the 4 minute mark, and it's slowing down a little, in the way Citizen Erased does a bit. This is classic Muse sound right here, and I totally love it.
On second thought: I've deemed this my second favorite off the album. I can't get enough of it, and I totally love when Matt's like, "Ooooocean! OOoooOoooceeaaann!"

MK Ultra
I like this one too :D Heh, admittedly, writing while listening is a little distracting, but that's okay, this baby's going in my car tomorrow so I can listen to it on the drive to school and back. As much as I love the way Muse experiments with new sounds, they really know how to rock in their own way, and whenever they bring that back (like in the last track, and this track) it gets a good fist-pumping from me. Really fast drums! 3:40 mark! Crunchy guitars! Wwwhhooooaaa!

I Belong to You (+Mon Coeur S'ouvre a ta Voix)
Whoa whoa, different sound. The jaunty piano beat reminds me a little of Scissor Sisters, or MIKA. Oh wait, there we go, it gets different. I really like this one. That's right Matt, let those vocals soar over those chimes. The instrumentation for this is beautiful, just what I'd expect from Muse when they're feeling rather experimental. Oh my God, he's singing in French. Somebody pick my jaw up from the floor, it dropped and I can't get it back up. This almost sounds like some kind of rock mix of an oldie French film, with the classical violins and pianos going at full blast. He's still singing in French. Where is my jaw? Oh, it's not over yet, it just can't stop being beautiful. Back to the beat, and—is that a clarinet?—yes, Muse, you do belong to me, and as a fan, I to you.
On second thought: Third favorite. Or fourth. Or maybe tied with Uprising. The song has a very dreamlike quality.

Exogenesis: Symphony Part 1 (Overture)
I wonder if this song, and its next 2 parts, have words. So far it sounds very dramatic and symphonic, like it should be a part of a play, specifically the part where a lover is about to die in a grandiose, heroic way. Did Matt really compose this? Oh wait, some heavy steady tom beats coming in. And... there's his voice! He's like some kind of ghost-angel when he sings, I swear. I love his falsetto to no end. I love the distorted guitar over the arpeggiating orchestra. Is "arpeggiating" even a word? Whatever, they're doing arpeggios.

Exogenesis: Symphony Part 2 (Cross-Pollination)
Lol, "cross-pollination" Muse, really? Some beautiful piano work to start, with... violins, and a chorus? Do mine ears betray me? I think it's a chorus, but I can't be sure. It goes into a waltz, and Matt's voice stands out more because the background is softer. It's like a ballade. Oh, I spoke too soon, here comes the beat! The just got more devastating. "Spread our codes to the stars / You must rescue us all!" Their music is made for all epic-journey movies. Every time I listen to songs like these, I just feel like going on some kind of epic quest. I must go! I HAVE to go! IT'S MY DESTINY!

Exogenesis: Symphony Part 3 (Redemption)
And finally, our journey comes to an end. This plays like a lullaby. The beginning piano bit reminds me a little of Joe Hisaishi, actually. And the drums and his voice comes in again, I really can't get enough of the way they come in like that, just like I can't get enough of how some disco songs start like slow ballads before bringin' on the dance beat. Well, there it is, it ended rather nicely.
On second thought: Upon reading the lyrics, the song just got more haunting. "Let's start over again / Just let us start it over again / Why can't we start it over again / And we'll be good / This time we'll get it right / Last chance to forgive ourselves." Ooooh. A new beginning. "Exogenesis" indeed.

All in all, it's a solid album. It started out kind of weak, but when it got to United States of Eurasia onward, it started sounding more like the Muse I know and love. That isn't to say it's too familiar, it's just familiar enough to give a smile and a nod, like when Trekkies spotted references to the old series in the new Star Trek movie. I kind of wish it ended with more of a bang, like Knights of Cydonia of the last album, but the Symphony was such a great ending, it really shows off all of Matt's compositional skills. I've definitely got my favorites, and a few not-favorites, and I'm rather proud of my own judgement. I don't believe I'm "too hardcore" of a fan to completely diss them when they put out a song I don't like, or defend them no matter what, but I think I'm able to distinguish what I love, like, and don't like without having it effect my "fan-ness."

I also very much like the presentation of the album. The art is colorful, different from their somewhat mono- or dichromatic palette in past albums, and it reflects how they've grown and branched out in this album. The way they list their lyrics reads a little like a sermon or an accusation (sometimes they're even interchangeable!) out of context, and packs a punch because the running theme of saving our devastated world, conspiracies, lies, and space has grown exponentially in Muse's work.

So there it is, a review of Muse's The Resistance from a semi-seasoned fan (became a fan between Absolution and BH&R).

Favorites: United States of Eurasia (+Collateral Damage), Unnatural Selection, Uprising, I Belong to You (+Mon Coeur S'ouvre a ta Voix)

When it comes to Muse, I tend to let certain songs grow on me over time, even if I initially didn't like them. That happened with last album's Map of the Problematique, Hoodoo and Take a Bow, as well as some older ones like Citizen Erased and Sing for Absolution. Likewise, some songs I enjoyed immensely to begin with grew old for me over time, like Space Dementia. A lot of it has not to do with Muse themselves, but rather who I am and how I feel at that particular point in time.

For more great The Resistance reviews, check out the sites below!
MusicRadar: Muse's The Resistance reviewed
LBUnion: Muse's New Album Fails to Inspire
(note: the review is actually good, even though the title suggests otherwise)