Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Ridiculous Brilliance of Muse

Muse are not for everyone. Neither were Queen and neither are Rush. Rabid fans of bands with this sort of over the top slant seem to have a hard time understanding why not everyone in the universe shares their same level of obsessive adoration. I understand, but that does not make any of those artists any less awesome.

I posted a bit recently about a Teenage Fanclub song that should never be able to get away with some of the musical tricks it achieves. The same could really be said with regard to Muse's fundamental raison d'etre. This band gets away with stuff that no other active band can pull off. The shameless aping of multiple over laid Queen vocal stylings ("United States of Eurasia"), the Iron Maiden-esque apocoloyptic riffing ("Knights of Cydonia"), the ease with which they can write a radio friendly Coldplay tinged hit when they feel like it ("Starlight"), and the rock solid technique and tightness of their ability that plays out both on album and live, not unlike a Canadian trio who needs no naming.

The point of the reference and influence string serves to confirm that Muse can channel any number of influences and styles shamelessly and yet there's not a single other active band that sounds anything like Muse. There also is not another act that so boldly has stuck to their value proposition regardless of what the current sound flavour might be in mainstream. Now, Muse are effectively a mainstream act, yet have not compromised a single thing since releasing Showbiz in 1999. The songs on their latest release, The Resiatance average around 5 minutes, and the last three are a Lord of The Rings type trilogy, ripe with textbook Muse pomp and circumstance. Their flair for spectacle, although just finally catching on in North America, is built for Wembley shows and Highlander style sword fights. I just bought a 200 pound sword today at SportChek and I plan on doing some be-heading before the hockey game on tv tonight.

When The Darkness hit the scene a few years back, part of the draw was trying to figure out how serious they were and how much of their schtick was tongue in cheek. With Muse there are no tongues and there are no cheeks. These guys bathe in the absurdity of their operatic vocals and symphonic scorings without reservation or apology. In that vein, what perhaps gets lost on some is how completely capable each player is musically, and how cohesive they are collectively. There also is not a single song recorded to ones and zeros that can't be replicated in a live setting. Neat trick for three guys, especially when the guitarist is the pianist. Sound familiar...okay, no more Rush plugging...I promise.

So if someone is not a Muse fan, I would suggest it is a tough sell (cough...like Rush), regardless of how they continue to evolve (hand claps on "Uprising" - that's right - hand claps bitches). They even have a bunch of hook laden tracks that could coerce someone into their vortex, but on the whole it's just a bit too much for most folks. If someone has not heard Muse however, and has an appreciation for music with the subtlety of a Michael Bay film and the complexities of a Tolkien novel, then they will appreciate just how genuine and steadfast this band is in its mission to conquer the universe. As Brian May said, Muse "let their madness show through".

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to finish listening to The Resistance so I can go and pick a sword fight with an unsuspecting neighbour.