Reliving Records: Muse’s The Resistance

Theresistance

Muse’s fifth studio album, The Resistance, is 6 years old today. Widely regarded by Muse fans as part one of the two-part black sheep of their album collection, in my opinion it is grossly underestimated and harshly treated. I don’t think it’s Muse’s best work however it’s far from being their worst. This album spawned a top 10 single, saw Muse break away from their comfort zone and has been classified 2xPlatinium in this country.

Personally, this was the first Muse album I bought on the day it was released. I came late to the Muse hype, finding them after hearing Supermassive Black Hole a few weeks after it was released (although, as it turns out, I had already heard Time Is Running Out – I just didn’t know it was them) and thus The Resistance was the first album they released with me as a fan. After college, I rushed into town to buy the deluxe edition, containing the making of DVD. I spent the whole night listening to it.

I used to tweet a lot. A hell of a lot, and unfortunately for me there is an app, which sends me daily reminders of how embarrassing they were. Timehop scours your social networks and tells you what you posted on this day 1,2,3,4,5,6 etc years ago. It is worth downloading for free if you want a laugh. It turns out that 6 years ago, I wrote a very embarrassing track-by-track review of The Resistance, based on my first listens. The question is, how have my opinions changed in 6 years?

One thing I noticed from re-reading the reviews was how overwhelmingly positive I was about the album. Every track got an 8, 9 or 10 out of 10, which does seem a bit ridiculous, but is arguably how I feel about every Muse album as soon as I get it. In fact, there’s a more general point there – I imagine I feel more strongly about every album I buy in the weeks after I’ve bought it than 6 years later. So, I started this review thinking the scores would be considerably lower, and they probably will be, however listening to The Resistance again has reminded me just how much I love it.

The main thing I love about Muse is how they don’t take themselves too seriously; a lot of what they do is tongue-in-cheek or too overblown to be genuine. They write about environmental destruction, nuclear war, space invaders or drone warfare and aren’t afraid to make grand assertions. They do it without being serious and on The Resistance; this was in evidence in spades. Right from the Queen references in United States of Eurasia, the song about psychological manipulation conducted by the CIA, the French opera inspired number up until the finish with a 3-part symphony.

Having said I love that, it’s also good when Muse strip down. The highlights of most of their albums end up being the ballads, songs that you don’t associate with them which end up being stadium-filling cracker jacks of songs. The Resistance has one of my favourites of the lot, which is an unbelievably unpopular opinion in the eyes of most Muse fans.

The Resistance isn’t perfect though; it has more than a few flaws. The ending of the album is a lot weaker than the start for one, and for another the production is too overdone. The beauty of the early Muse albums is you can undoubtedly hear Matt breathing throughout pages, making the music more like a live experience than most albums. This is still evident on The Resistance however it has been toned down – which is no surprise really given that by this point they were already the biggest band in Britain.

Overall, The Resistance is a good album. It was the start of Muse’s experimental period, although the majority of songs are played on their bog standard instruments – thereby making it a transitional album and it works well in that regard. The usual Muse elements are there, high difficulty of songs, many influences of sounds, combined with newer directions and a higher quality of song writing than usual. It was, in my opinion, the album that cemented their place at the top of the hierarchy of British rock music.

Let’s go through this track-by-track, with the help of my reviews from 6 years ago. They are unbelievably embarrassing – so I’m not quite sure why I am plastering them on the Internet again! Unfortunately, my reviewing skills haven’t got much better and still rely on horrendously overused descriptive words.

The_Resistance_CD_DVD_back_cover

Uprising:

What I said then: Really good pop song to start with. My mum asked to listen to it yesterday, even asked for it to be the new Doctor Who theme tune! Nuff Said 😀 (8/10)

What I say now: The thing about my mum was important because she never asks to listen to Muse! That aside, I wasn’t wrong about it being a really good song to start with. Based around the Doctor Who theme tune, set to the backdrop of a revolution, here is a song to chant to, to rock to and to belt out. Catchy and meaningful, this is Muse at the peak of their powers.

Rating: 9/10

Resistance:

What I said then: Omg. Love it. So Catchy. Been singing it all day 🙂 (8)

What I say now: Ok, here is my first grievance with The Resistance. Yes, it’s catchy (and yes, I was an annoying 16 year old) but it’s been overplayed by Muse, is a bit too long and I only really listen to it when I feel in the mood to. Probably the Muse song I’ve skipped the most. However, it’s still better than what most bands make and that pre-chorus is wonderful.

Rating: 6/10

Undisclosed Desires:

What I said then: Love the RnB opening and a perfect show of how amazing Muse actually are 😀 (8)

What I say now: I don’t get the hate for UD. It’s a valiant attempt at a genre where Muse aren’t comfortable yet it manages to fit in with the rest of their back catalogue. There are still times, 6 years later, where nothing fits the mood like UD. It’s no SMBH, MotP, KoC, SD or CE (¹) but it’s a good song in it’s own right. The beat is catchy and the chorus has sing-a-long potential.

Rating: 8/10

United States of Eurasia (+Collateral Damage):

What I said then: Muse doing something that sounded like Queen the first time and now just sounds truly amazing. 3rd favourite song. (9)

What I say now: A Queen inspired, Chopin imitating blast of a number. The falsetto part was really where Matt channelled Freddie Mercury and did it in a way that led Brian May to praise it. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I dare you to listen to this song and not chant “Eura-sia! Sia! Sia! Sia!” As a song, it just works, and the altered Chopin piano piece at the end rounds of a beautiful piece. One of my favourite live songs, although admittedly, I have seen it enough now and would like to hear other piano songs like Ruled By Secrecy or Space Dementia.

Rating: 9/10

Guiding Light:

What I said then: So beautiful. The beautiful songs on the albums (Unintended, Citizen Erased (nb, presumably 16 year old me meant the quiet bits!), Blackout and Invincible) are matched amazingly by this. 2nd favourite song (9)

What I say now: All right, time to don my tin hat and get ready for abuse. Guiding Light has become not only my favourite song from The Resistance but one of my favourite songs of all time. And, truth be told, I think only Matt Bellamy agrees with me on that. The hate it received when they played it at the Etihad stadium was disappointing, and I was the only one around who was happy! I think it’s beautiful, I think it’s powerful and I think it’s a hidden gem in amongst all the riffs, chants and falsettos this album is now famous for.

Rating: 10/10

Unnatural Selection:

What I said then: The riff at the end sums Muse up. Unpredictable and amazing (8)

What I say now: Not really that unpredictable a riff, but still a monster of one that was designed for stadiums. The perfect closing song on their arena tour, it could realistically fit anywhere within the set list around the time it was written. But now, I don’t know – I certainly am in no hurry to see it live again. Don’t get me wrong, I love shouting “I WANT THE TRUTH”, it’s just that Muse have so many better songs in their arsenal and it now gets lost a bit.

Rating: 5/10

MK Ultra:

What I said then: I cannot wait to see this live. Actually can’t. My favourite song from this album. Potential to be my favourite song ever. (10)

What I say now: Well I never got to see it live, and it isn’t my favourite song of all time but it is still one of the highlights here. Hey, the 7th song on Muse albums are usually great (Unintended, Micro Cuts, Assassin, Animals) and this is no exception. Different to what Muse usually do, a bit quicker, a bit syncopated in the breakdown and hence why it was difficult to play live. It reached perfection with the line “we are losing control”. Well worth a listen, especially if you haven’t heard it before.

Rating: 9/10

I Belong To You (+Mon Cœur S’ouvre à Ta Voix):

What I said then: Probably everyone will think this is the weak link of the album. I disagree. This sounds like 70’s pop with Matt’s voice. And the French. Wowwww. What more could you want in life? Well MK Ultra maybe… (8)

What I say now: Where to start with that two tweet review? Firstly, it is almost certainly the weak point of the album. Secondly, the French isn’t that great (although the clarinet solo afterwards definitely is) and thirdly, you can want a lot more in life! Hey, it’s a good effort at something different and certainly isn’t a poor song – it has many redeeming qualities (being upbeat and slightly more listenable than the heavy stuff for one) but it was remixed and used in a Twilight movie. As my 16-year-old self would say, nuff said.

Rating: 5/10

Exogenesis Symphony:

What I said then: The perfect end to an almost perfect album. No other band would dare to right (nb, presumably I meant write) this as no other band could pull this off. Had my doubts about this at first but no more. It is simply outstanding. (9)

What I say now: Apart from the dreadful mix-up of homophones in the middle, I can’t disagree with anything I said. Exogenesis is really where Muse separate themselves from modern rock bands. Not afraid to drop classical influences into their music, they wrote a whole 3-piece symphony. Split into 3 parts on the album, they fit seamlessly as one and, as they’ve proved at live gigs, work when apart as well.

Rating: 8/10

Average rating: 7.5/10 (Excellent)

United_States_of_Eurasia,_Score_in_Milan...

Overall, I think it’s clear that you overrate (or underrate) albums when they first come out. First listens always bring strong emotions, which lessen out over time (essentially, that’s why hits aren’t always classics and why some albums are growers). Overall, The Resistance has stayed remarkably consistent in my mind. I still rate the same songs I did then, I still listen to all. I think I recognise that it isn’t Muse’s best work in terms of the music, however it has a special place in my heart thanks to the fact I rushed out to buy it (the first in it’s kind in that regard for Muse albums).

I know that what I like and dislike from this album is widely seen as controversial in the Muse fan-base, for example UD and GL will never be favourites whereas I believe US and Resistance are liked. However, isn’t that what makes music worthwhile? That we can all hear the same notes, chords and arrangements yet form different favourites in our minds. Some songs just resonate with us, and others with other people and that’s why music continues to flourish.

Happy Birthday The Resistance, you underappreciated gem.

 

¹ Key:

  •  SMBH = Supermassive Black Hole
  • MotP = Map of The Problematique
  • KoC = Knights of Cydonia
  • CE = Citizen Erased
  • SD = Space Dementia
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