It was in 2003 with their third studio album, ‘Absolution’, that Muse officially showed the world how startlingly ambitious they are. For many of us, the evidence was there far earlier. Songs like ‘Muscle Museum’ had made them a force to be reckoned with, while ‘Plug-In Baby’ was a sign that they wouldn’t shy away from mainstream appeal. Then there were the live shows, which were unforgettable even in the beginning – after all, who else but Muse would unleash monster-sized balloons into the crowd as their finale? But it was ‘Absolution’ that finally made the wider music-buying public sit up and pay attention. Muse had found their stride, and tracks like ‘Time Is Running Out’ and ‘Hysteria’ were brilliantly unique and utterly catchy. Even better, there wasn’t a single band around that came close to matching what they were doing.
By the time ‘Black Holes & Revelations’ appeared in 2006, we knew that we could expect big things from Muse and not be disappointed. Yet no-one could have predicted how wonderfully overblown ‘Knights Of Cydonia’ would be, nor how the trio would triumph at their mammoth Wembley stadium gigs in 2007. No doubt plenty of people at those incredible shows will have wondered how on earth Muse would top such grandiosity when they eventually returned. According to ‘The Resistance’, it’s by being more audacious than ever before. Muse’s fifth studio album breaks all the rules – it ignores conventional song lengths, it crams half-a-dozen musical styles into a single track, and perhaps most notably, it finds Muse in brave new territory – disco rock. First single ‘Uprising’ is an astounding example of their newfound groove; like Marilyn Manson covering Billy Idol’s ‘White Wedding’ in a 70s nightclub - it’s this record’s ‘Supermassive Black Hole’. Another big surprise is ‘Undisclosed Desires’, which has the feel of a slick R&B number belonging to – wait for it – Justin Timberlake.
If it all sounds a bit far-fetched so far, that’s because it is. But for every song that leaves you asking, ‘Is this really Muse?’ there’s another that’s unmistakably them, just cranked up a gear. ‘United States Of Eurasia’, for example, pulls familiar tricks. Fans will be at home with the echoes of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and the deliberate classical references - yet they’ll be wowed nonetheless. Later, ‘Unnatural Selection’ recalls Muse at their absolute heaviest - ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ style - but it also ups the thrill factor with unprecedented metal riffs, and clocks in at nearly seven minutes long.
The album’s close is no less spectacular. Clearly, Muse have allowed themselves to indulge all their musical fantasies this time, and accordingly they’ve ended proceedings with the kind of three-part symphony you just know Matt Bellamy has been itching to try. It’s the full orchestral experience, with a sense of drama that’s bolstered by the lyrical theme that pervades ‘The Resistance’ – the love story in George Orwell’s classic book ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’.
Uninhibited and unapologetic, Muse have made an album so preposterous, it borders on genius. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.