Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Muse's The Resistance: A Review

I rightly talk about music a lot as it plays a significant part in my quotidianity. Most summers, thanks mostly to my intimate associations and friendships with those in the arts, I tend to spend a good measure of time learning about new music. Often I am asked how I learn about new music and just as often I answer quoting my musician friends as well as the publications I make it a point to read on a daily basis. Some daily staples include the Rolling Stone magazine, Spin, Black Book magazine, as well as iTunes around midnight on Monday/Tuesday. Much like all else, music takes time and discipline and its student needs to be willing to do the right amount of homework for it. And some music deserves more homework time than others.

This summer, however, I spent more time re-appreciating much of what I already have on my iTunes since I was traveling a lot and one of the things that makes travel easy is my music. I use familiar music to deal with unfamiliar settings. And, as frequently stated, music is a great tool of experience-recording and journaling. While reconnecting with an old friend of mine, I found myself referencing Muse and their music quite a bit. As a matter of fact, they were a high-frequency occurrence. My friend and I discovered that we had much of the same artistic inclinations we used to have as teenagers. Also, when relating to other new friends I noticed that we kept uncovering a number of layers of commonality mostly because of similar artistic preferences. I've long maintained, in my normal life and daily relationships, that there is nothing inconsequential about artistic tendencies and that that which we like reveals quite often than which we are.

Enter Muse.
I am a big believer in their kind of art. Muse's music is like a very well-research academic textbook. The form is impeccable and the bibliography tips the hat to all the relevant influences whereas the content is not only smart and helpful, it is didactic. I mention Muse often on HetPer and I do so out truly personal reasons. I saw them live when they were very little known in the US and that was experience was, as I refer to it in my daily life, a game-changer.

When at the intimate venue I remember feeling a strong sense of place and purpose. I had never sensed anything like it in any other rock 'n roll show I had seen up to that point. And there were quite a few. In addition to this strong sense of place and purpose, I remember feeling a sense of possibility, too. I was a little confused for a little bit because I remember feeling the same emotions when at the opera seeing Puccini's Tourandot. For some reason, those emotions made sense when the tenor breaks into: "al alba vincero." What else could a rock show be offering then? Well, Matt Bellamy. Bellamy is a rock musician who has a tenor's voice and who plays a number of instruments with the ease of a virtuoso. On top of this, he projects a sense of gravitas that is overwhelmingly beautiful. I remember telling my person that it made sense that a band like this would be called 'muse.' There's something creativity-inspiring about them.

Their music is the stuff that often enables you to be the best version of yourself. When art becomes personal it assumes a kind of importance that is difficult, if not impossible, to shake. Its relevance has leaked into all sorts of realms. In this case, it deserves all sorts of attention.

Enter their new album, The Resistance, which became available today and which is inspiring me all sorts of things and is presently monopolizing the iPhone, the iPod, and the computer. The first track is their already released "Uprising" which, when I first heard it, found overwhelming. As I've mentioned to a number of people, the album is so good it made me lose track of my sense of direction and I found myself entering a kind of daze I haven't experienced since the last Franz Ferdinand show.

Matt Bellamy's vocal range of 3 octaves and use of the falsetto register begs for the kind of attention that no rock musician I have seen live up to this point in my life can quite match. Not even close. There's a sense of depth that he projects not only via his voice but also his amazing command of guitar and piano.

Another track of amazing power is entitled "Guiding Light". Every time I play it, I feel a small degree of apprehension which colors an overall sense of pleasure. I have no idea why apprehension is an ingredient here but it is. I found myself feeling the way I felt when I saw the Sean Penn-directed film Into the Wild, which, as I've intimated to many, is for some odd reason simultaneously painful and beautiful for me to watch. After the first few seconds of guitar and drums, Bellamy's voice translates into music and lyrics the kinds of emotions most of us would perhaps prefer to keep well locked and hidden by virtue of their inherent toughness. Tough emotions are beautiful, no doubt, but it takes a certain kind of balanced elegance and maturity to render them. Boy, of boy, does he absolutely nail this!

I'd like to also give a tip of my hat to the three-part symphony here. While listening to "Part II (Cross Pollination)" it became apparent to me yet again that the reason why this band is so good that it's inimitable is because their kind of skill set is simply of too high a calibre. Most contemporary bands can't hold a candle to them as they truly are in a league of their own. Plus, Bellamy's songwriting in this new album oozes a sense of Mediterranean sounds which I picked up when I first heard it. After doing some research I found out that Bellamy has been living in Italy and he's actively incorporated influences from the South. A good sense of context is yet another strong reason to like them, folks.

The Resistance is not the kind of album you can sort of nonchalantly play as you go about your daily chores. To me, at least, much like Mozart's and Verdi's Requiem, this album demands full attention and a clear presence of mind. It's consuming. But in such a gratifying, sensual, and aesthetically pleasing way.

Could you tell if I approved of it?

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Dawn said...

It's a very special album. You can definitely tell when musicians are actually well trained in instruments. Sure, guitars are important but they're not the only instrument that matters in rock.
Bellamy is an amazing artist, bo doubt!

Anonymous said...

You know, I have sensed this too. On top of their qualitative music, they have a strong component of sensuality, as well.
But I wonder if Muse would stand out, in terms of quality, as much as it stands out now because honestly there seems to be a drought of quality out there.
I remember thinking when watching the VMA's that as a music buyer, I'd only bought the music of two acts in it.

Anonymous said...

I was also going to bring up Stereophonics which is another hard-working and from the UK. They ahve much popularity in Europe but not as much here. I hope to see them on tour in the US as well. I suppose there's supply and demand at work here which, come to think of it, makes me a little sad that such good musicians don't get the audiences they deserve because it's Lady Gaga's time.
But, there's no accounting for taste and I can respect that. :)

Dana said...

"Muse's music is like a very well-research academic textbook."

You must really like them!!
Cool analogy. I don't know them but will get on it now, of course. A book like that 'begs for attention,' yes? :0)

Anonymous said...

It's an AMAZING album. The way music is meant to be!

Sra said...

I should check this out. I haven't been following Muse since Absolution (which is still brilliant), but it would be nice to get reacquainted.

Ben said...

That's the thing. These guys are so honest. There's a kind of authenticity about their art that makes me feel inspired.
Spectacular album!

Candace said...

What I wanted to comment on is how starved so many people are for quality not only in music but in the arts generally.
It's not that I object to the arts that the masses like. I simply object to stuff that's not qualitative and that, with time, turns out to be damaging to the overall development of people's critical thinking. One of the missions of art is, after all, teaching the masses how to get better and expand already set confines.
Muse is one of those rare acts where talent is seen as a necessary ingredient not just a little plus.
Also, entertainment is not just a thing of passing value. It's meant to first teach and inspire progress of nature.
The 'academic textbook' analogy made me chuckle. Thanks for that.

Candace said...

I also do think that taste shifts occur when both the artist and the audience too are subservient to higher standards. Art, again, is not just a privilege, it's a responsibility. Waxed didactic here but I thought I'd go with it. ;)