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Muse | Absolution | review | alternative | Lollipop


Absolution (Warner Bros.)
by Tim Den

Call them all the names you'd like, they've heard it all. Radiohead wannabes, overdramatic wankers, unnecessary proggies, narcissistic prima donnas... Some of those names ring truer than others, but no one can argue that Muse can whip some serious baroque 'n' roll ass (I stole that from Kerrang!).

They burst onto the music scene in '99 with Showbiz, a debut of maturity and bombastic melancholy leagues ahead of the then-burgeoning British mope rock pack. Guitarist/vocalist Matthew Bellamy possessed Jeff Buckley pipes, classical guitar skills, and boogie woogie piano tutelage that shamed performers twice his age. The band became top contenders in Europe, but - despite tours with Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers - were nothing more than an underground buzz Stateside.

By the time Origin of Symmetry ('01) was released to platinum selling results overseas, Muse's American fans were starting to wonder if the band had been banished from these shores (Maverick Records, who released Showbiz in the U.S., dropped the band shortly afterward). And it was even more of a slap in the face when Origin of Symmetry proved to be monumentally superior to Showbiz, full of Bach passages laced with electrifying aggression. The band, long time fans of Helmet and Rage Against The Machine, had learned how to fuse classically-inclined chord progressions with metallic bite. Think Cave In are the only ones capable of peeling flesh with hooks? Think again.

Origin of Symmetry was (and still is to this day) available import-only in the U.S., causing their American fans much heartbreak and disbelief. How could such majesty go unrecognized when there's so much shit out there?

Muse have returned to the U.S. with Absolution, but it isn't quite Origin of Symmetry. The production is equally clean, heavy, and precise, but not as warm or sharp. The songs sound familiar, with refrains that are almost predictable to a true fan. Bellamy's floating falsetto and bassist/backup vocalist Chris Wolstenholme's ascending runs no longer seem like explorations into new and exciting neo-classical territory, rather well-worn paths to obvious choruses. Yet with repeated listens, Absolution reveals itself to be worthwhile. There are monsterous stompers ("Stockholm Syndrome," "Hysteria," and especially "The Small Print") and beautiful serenades ("Blackout" and the delicious "Falling Away With You"), not to mention the glorious chorus of "Thoughts of a Dying Atheist." By golly, these are some fine tunes, despite their transparent streaks.


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