Muse - The Resistance: is futile? A track-by-track reaction

Tim Miller 20/09/2009

GIITTV deputy Editor Tim Miller goes through Muse's new album 'The Resistance' track-by-track. But is the Resistance futile?Or not?

Uprising -

Hang on, this can't be right, the CD's playing Kasabian's 'Shoot the Ru -' oh no, this is actually it. Now it sounds a bit Dr. Who theme-ish; spacey and wishy-washy. Matt Bellamy's wailing about being 'victorious' again. For the third album in the row. Sigh. Bellamy's chord progression expertise is here, that's evident, and it's a passable romp, but where are the guitars?

Resistance -

After starting like Robert Miles's 'Children' (no, really) there are, at least, some guitars. But they're scuzzy, like Placebo or Feeder, and Bellamy's singing about love being the resistance. It's lacklustre and unconvincing, to say the least, as love songs go. 'Unintended' seems an awful long way away now.

Undisclosed Desires -

Matt Bellamy's never been shy of cranking up the effects to 11, but it's tended to be when making his guitar sound like the Deathstar. Not when roboticizing his vocals over pizzicato strings and a...can it be?...yes, R'n'B beat. Everything that made Origin of Symmetry a brilliant breakthrough album is absent from this lifeless flit with mainstream pop.

United States of Eurasia [+ Collateral Damage] -

It would be unfair to call a song crap just for its unforgivably juvenile song title. But given that its 'Live and Let Die'-aping piano and 'We are the Champions'-plundering histrionics aren't so much tongue-in-cheek as head-up-arse, there's more than enough evidence to convict Bellamy and the band of heinous pastiche. They have even chucked in a Brian May stadium-rock lick for good measure. Except for 'good measure' read 'final nail in the coffin'. 'Collateral Damage', meanwhile, simply equates to some tranquil classical piano and jet noises. Utterly dislikeable.

Guiding Light -

This epitomises how far Muse have come from the fierce, angsty trio that wrote songs like Sunburn, Fillip and Cave. Overblown is something that's increasingly levelled at the band these days, and Guiding Light is nothing if not a stadium filler, all hand-clapping drums and starry-eyed synth layers. It's a bit like listening to U2 covering Glasvegas and getting the wrong end of their miserablism shtick.

Unnatural Selection -

Finally, six tracks in, we've got that insistent, racing riff-making that echoes New Born or Stockholm Syndrome, Muse's most naturally aggressive track here. At seven minutes long, with its bludgeoning slowed down centre, it still packs the most punch here but virtually by default.

MK Ultra -

More of that space dementia synth work that littered Black Holes and Revelations, but suddenly the last ten minutes or so of the record have seen Muse get down to the crafted prog-leaning rock they mastered on Absolution. Probably the best track on Resistance, MK Ultra is ferocious and pounding, an equally visceral contribution from each of the members - something that certainly isn't typical of The Resistance as a whole.

I Belong To You [+ Mon Coeur S'Ouvre A Ta Voix]

And then they go and spoil it all by doing something stupid like I Belong To You, a smug Maroon 5-esque piano jaunt with a horrid clarinet solo following a needless French black and white film breakdown in the middle. It doesn't get more pretentious than this.

Exogenesis Symphony Part 1 [Overture]; Exogenesis Symphony Part 2 [Cross-pollination]; Exogenesis Part 3 [Redemption] -

Or does it? For Muse's final trick on their fifth album, we have a symphony in three parts to negotiate. It's no secret that Matt Bellamy is a classically skilled pianist, and it made for one of his finest compositions in Absolution's Butterflies and Hurricanes. Luckily here, the central part to the Exogenesis is much the same, Bellamy's resounding piano scales peaking over some typically weighty blasts of Muse's prog-rock. [Overture] is the most grandly orchestral, while [Redemption] does well to resolve the mini-symphony's three parts. It sounds like a natural progression from where the band were heading on Absolution, but is rather ham-fisted in its make-up here: with each 'movement' only being around four minutes long, and so linked are they, it seems a stylistic un-necessity to have them divided into three segments. Nevertheless, as a whole, Exogenesis is grand and pompous and absolutely perfectly realised. It just doesn't seem to fit alongside the patchy, dubious eight tracks that have preceded it.

It is, then, difficult to know what to make of this. At points, Muse sound like they're taking the piss, knowingly nodding heads to influential predecessors, at others (Resistance and Guiding Light a particular example) they sound like a band who don't know where their previous efforts should have led them, while Unnatural Selection and MK Ultra work but give the feeling that Bellamy churned them out. Only Exogenesis is the true success, and deserves its own EP, or even a full exploration as a long player on its own. The Resistance is a thoroughly disjointed record, with only flashes of real brilliance and riddled with questionable songwriting. The most optimistic consequence is that for album number sixth - which better hurry - they could literally go anywhere from here.