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The Resistance
Muse The Resistance
Released 15 September 2009
Producer Muse
Label Warner Bros.
Length 54:18
Genre Progressive, alternative rock
Website muse.mu/

Since their emergence in the late 90's, Muse have gradually established themselves as one of the biggest bands in the world. They have done this by developing a reputation as a must see live act and by consistently producing music of a high quality in the studio. Over ten years into their career, they have yet to release a bad album. The Resistance, Muse's fifth studio album to date, maintains the standards we have come to expect of them.

In terms of musical style, for the majority of the album there is no huge departure from the sound of Muse's previous offering, Black Holes and Revelations. That album introduced a slight electronica influence into Muse's music. This is again evident here most notably on the third track, 'Undisclosed Desires', which is reminiscent of Depeche Mode. However, Muse emphatically remain a rock band. Guitars are still the driving force behind the music while synthesisers are used sparingly.

As far as potential singles are concerned, the album plays its hand early - the first three songs are all destined to some day find their way onto a Muse greatest hits album. Opening track and lead single, 'Uprising', marries a chugging guitar riff to an 80's style synthesiser with good results. Next up is the album's title track, which is a classic, stadium sized Muse song and features the album's catchiest chorus. The electronica tinged 'Undisclosed Desires' completes the trio. Confirmed as the second single to be taken from the album, it sees Muse exercise more restraint than is their custom. It's also a very good song.

As ever with Muse, the influences are diverse but Queen remain the most obvious one. 'United States of Eurasia', for example, mixes piano and lush strings with electric guitars and ends up sounding like something written by the love child of Mozart and Freddie Mercury on a trip through the middle east.

The album rocks hardest in the middle. The heavy guitars of 'Unnatural Selection', recall 'New Born' from Muse's second album, Origin of Symmetry, while 'MK Ultra' has a guitar riff along the lines of Guns 'n' Roses' 'Sweet Child of Mine'. These two tracks are the sort of high intensity rock that was all over Origin of Symmetry although it must be said that they are two of the album's weakest songs.
'I Belong to You / Mon Coeur S'ouvre a ta Voix' sees Muse chart unfamiliar waters. The song is an upbeat number driven by a jazzy piano and a funky, heavily effected bass guitar. About half way through, the song slows down completely and enters a middle section with operatic vocals that Bellamy - bizarrely - sings in French. The interlude is then interrupted by the return of the song's original groove before the band launch into a clarinet solo and one last chorus. It works. The song is probably the highlight of the album.

Lead singer Matthew Bellamy has long had an interest in classical music and this has to a certain extent manifested itself in the music of the band. However, Muse have never so openly worn this influence on their sleeve as they do at the end of this album. The closing three tracks are entitled, in all seriousness, 'Exogenesis: Symphony Parts 1, 2 and 3'. These three tracks represent not so much a halfway house on the road from rock music to classical music as a last stop off point on the way. 'Exogenesis' is an orchestral piece split into three parts, which clocks in at about thirteen minutes in total. A piano is the lead instrument in places but it also features distorted guitars and vocals from Bellamy some of which are sung in rock style. Bellamy has said that he has been working on 'Exogenesis' on and off for several years and employed over forty musicians during the recording of it. Whether this represents ambition or pretentiousness depends on your point of view. I suspect that the majority of Muse fans would prefer them to stick to rock music. However, it should be recognised that Muse are breaking new ground here; nobody else is making music like this.  

If you are the type of person who was turned off by the bombastic style of previous Muse albums, The Resistance is not going to convert you. On this album Muse are as extravagant as ever, if not more so. Extravagance is just what they do and I will not try to criticise them for it. My main criticism of the album is that while the diversity, ambition and virtuosity of the music is very impressive throughout, the actual song writing is rarely spectacular. Not many of the songs on the album would work particularly well if they were stripped of the elaborate arrangements and were instead accompanied by a solitary piano or acoustic guitar. Also, none of the songs on the album are quite the equal of the outstanding 'Starlight' from their previous album. However, despite these reservations, I would say that the album as a whole is the equal of Black Holes and Revelations. The Resistance is another worthy addition to the Muse catalogue and will help cement their standing as one of the world's biggest bands.

- Mark Collins