Tag Archives: Muse

Grantland explains Muse’s The 2nd Law

Muse has a new album out. It’s better than I expected given the dub step promo, and a couple of songs at the end of the album where Bass player Chris becomes front man show that Matt Bellamy is the reason that Muse isn’t Nickelback… The middle half is the best.

Muse can be accused of taking themselves too seriously, or parodying those who take themselves too seriously – one can’t really tell, except that they do some pretty funny stuff like this position switch when told they have to lip sync for live TV:

Anyway. Grantland essentially over thinks the new Muse album in a beautiful way with the ambitiously titled: The Meaning of Muse: How a bloated, bombastic rock band explains our fractured futures.

What other pieces of musical criticism open with a paragraph like this:

We all know that the media has been decentralized in the past three decades and the audience has been carved up among countless, niche-oriented platforms. From a consumer perspective, this is mostly a big improvement. If it were still the bad old days, you wouldn’t be checking this website for pop culture coverage, because it wouldn’t exist. Instead, you’d be stuck with the lifestyle section of your local newspaper and forcing yourself to be interested in a story about Halloween decorating tips. The future is now, and it’s much more readable.

Which leads, a little later to this:

Looking ahead, it’s generally assumed that culture will continue to break down into an infinite series of hyper-specific subsets with finely detailed points of demarcation between micro-genres. But I wonder if we’re actually headed in the opposite direction, where genres will become so jumbled in our heads that they will cease to have meaning as distinctively different properties. Maybe all forms of pop music in the future will basically sound like the same nonsensical mess operating on its own sense of bizarre yet unerring inner logic; the only differences will be the headgear and footwear of the performers.

And then the Muse=Radiohead meme gets pulled out, and pantsed…

“Muse is a British trio that has been putting out records since the late ’90s and can be credibly called one of the world’s most popular rock bands. Critics frequently compare Muse to Radiohead and Queen, because front man Matthew Bellamy sings a lot like Thom Yorke, and the band affects a mock-orchestral grandiosity that borders on camp. But for the most part these comparisons are reductive; lazy writers decided these were Muse’s most appropriate reference points in 2003 and haven’t paid close enough attention since then to update them.”

And…

“Bellamy has describedThe 2nd Law as a “Christian gangsta-rap jazz odyssey, with some ambient rebellious dubstep and face-melting metal flamenco cowboy psychedelia.” Actually, it’s a lot more convoluted than that. “Panic Station” is like an outtake from an unreleased Rush album from 1986 produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, except really odd. The torch-y balladry of “Explorers” imagines a scenario in which Celine Dion performs Jeff Buckley’s Grace in its entirety while riding a flaming seahorse through downtown Las Vegas. The very pretty “Save Me,” one of two songs sung by bassist Christopher Wolstenholme, dials it back a bit, crossbreeding Led Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song” with the opening track from Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity.

This probably sounds awful, and some of The 2nd Law is exactly that. I consider myself a Muse fan, but I’d never argue this band gets it right most of the time. I find that the idea of Muse is often more enjoyable than Muse’s music.”

This isn’t all of it. Read the article. Grantland’s Steven Hyden pretty much sums up exactly how I feel about every Muse album since Absolution.

One-third of Muse songs are unlistenable, another third are merely ridiculous, and the final third are stupidly exhilarating.

Have you listened to The 2nd Law? What did you think?

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Muse: An iPhone Video

It’s almost a week since Robyn and I went to see Muse. It was a pretty amazing concert. Here are some of the bits of lighting magic I managed to film before my phone went flat. The sound quality is awful. It is, afterall, an iPhone video. And we were sitting a long way away. As I write this I’m watching a Blur: Live at Hyde Park concert on ABC2. And I’m thinking “wouldn’t it be amazing to have musical talent and be in a band so you could perform to tens of thousands of screaming fans”…

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Muse’s Matt Bellamy on corporate songwriting

Muse were pretty epic last night. They have a beautifully crafted stage presence that makes the songs you don’t like on their albums make a bit of sense. It’s almost as though they write their songs with the arena and not the CD player in mind… wait. That’s exactly what they do. Apparently. According to this interview anyway, which has some relevance (I think) to writing music for churches. Not that I’m an expert on the matter. But I know what songs I like singing and don’t like singing (and I have a yawn test – if I yawn while singing a song it isn’t much fun to sing).

Q: Speaking of your live show, Muse uses a lot of layers and complicated structures. As you are writing, do you three confer about how the songs will translate live.
A: The end venue, which relates to the last question, it has an impact on the writing, whether you like it or not. You’re always thinking – how is this going to be listened to. Our time is dominated mostly by touring, not by being in the studio. If we were just a studio band, we’d make one kind of album, but because we know we are going on the road, you can’t help but make music that has a relevance being in a large venue.
Using pronouns like “we” and “us”, instead of “I” – you move away from the personal and start moving to singing about more – even the whole venue will feel like it’s about them, or about all of us together in that room. It has an impact. It’s a major difference between the first album to this one, I feel the music we’re making is making a bigger effort to reach out to the people at the back of the venue. You can’t help but wanting to engage the audience.

Q: Do you miss playing small clubs?

A: I like it for different reasons. When you go into a small club, you can totally misjudge the set-list. There’s a certain type of songs which work well in a small venue and others that work well in a big venue. You can get it wrong. There’s a song from the last album called “Take A Bow”, and I imaging on this album it’ll be the track “Eurasia”, that if you played at a really small venue it would actually be crap (laughs). It just wouldn’t work. The pretensions of it, or the over-reachingness of it would be exposed.
Whereas when you go into a stadium environment, it feels perfectly relevant. The boldness of the emotion, the instrumentation of the music fits very well.

Q: So when you are writing, you are writing to the space?

A: I wouldn’t say it’s conscious. I’ve noticed it’s happening unconsciously. It might be the impact of playing in front of large audiences for a long period of time. It makes you think differently about people, it make you think differently about yourself. It’s no longer just a subjective, lonely experience.

Speaking of Radiohead

This time tomorrow Robyn and I will be on our way home from a Muse concert. Awesome.

I’m hoping for some of this.

Not this.

Or this.

YouTube Friday: Synch on this

Muse are consummate performers, so forcing them to lipsynch on national television isn’t a great move. An Italian television network made that demand, so the trio switched instruments, roles and places.

This wasn’t the first time they’d made fun of lip synching demands…


I’m hoping to get tickets to their Brisbane show when they go on sale on Monday.

How to find a new favourite band

I really like Muse. I have for years. They’re at that stage though where so many people like them that it’s not cutting edge any more. And if there’s one thing I like being it’s cutting edge… Even my sisters like them now. Despite years of complaining when I played them back when I was living at home… it happened with Powderfinger too. And I probably would have liked U2 once… while it’s sad that my musical taste is so dependent on the taste of others, that’s not the point of this post.

How do you find a new favourite band? I found this post via some bookmarking service (Digg, or Reddit, or What’s hot in Google Reader – I can’t remember which). You can use mathematics to find a new band. And the results look promising.

“Now let’s see. I take a sample of 215 bands including those on top of the Billboard 200 (who are these people?) and calculate an average number of plays per each listener (via last.fm data). All things equal, the higher the average, the the more devoted the band’s fans are.”

Then you graph it…

“Each red dot is a band. Y-axis represents the total number of the band’s listeners, the x-axis represents the average number of listens per each band’s fan, the blue line is the “alien average”. The swarm in the left bottom corner is the “moshpit of doom” – your band is nothing special in the public’s eyes if you are there.”

If a band has a huge amount of listeners then it probably appeals to some common human emotion and everybody can enjoy their songs. If a band has little listeners, but plays per listener (PPL) rate is high, it must mean the band was able to appeal to some sort of less common emotion and the higher the PPL the harder it is to substitute the band by some other band.

This is a graph using Coldplay as the base…

And here’s how you find the music you should try out…

The things you can do with technology…

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Nobody likes Beck

Glenn Beck is a bizarro Christian shock jock in the US. Atheists hate him.

He praised Muse on his show this week. A representative from Muse apparently emailed him asking him to retract. He was going on about how Muse are libertarians who don’t want a one world government.

Beck retracts his endorsement at four minutes and twenty six seconds into the story.

Irresistable Resistance

I picked up a copy of Muse’s new album – The Resistance – on Saturday morning. Well, when I say “picked up”, I mean downloaded on iTunes. I’m starting to adjust to the intangibility of online music purchases. Slowly. The vernacular will probably catch up one day too… but enough about me.

I’ve listened to the album a bunch of times now – and I’ve enjoyed it. I want to sit down one day and listen to the entire Muse catalogue from Showbiz to now – I think they’ve undergone a pretty interesting development while still maintaining the same fundamentals that make them popular.

I still think Absolution is their best album, then probably Origin of Symmetry – but I’ve listened to those significantly more than the latest two.

What I really like about Muse is that they seem to really enjoy being in a band. They have fun. They lead fans on treasure hunts around the world and turn their concerts into massive stage shows. This album smacks of that with the hat tip to Queen in the ultimately silly and over the top United States of Eurasia. They simultaneously take themselves pretty seriously, and Matt Bellamy is a serious musician. The three symphony pieces at the end are musically exciting, but the lyrics across the album are not quite as profound as you expect they think they are. But from a band who gave us, in Showbiz, in the song Muscle Museum, the rhyming couplet:

“I have played in every toilet. But you still want to spoil it”

I’ve never really expected all that much from them lyrically.

I like it though. It’s catchy. And it’s undeniably Muse.

More new Muse

Here’s the second Muse song from the upcoming album – The Resistance. It’s less Queenish than the last one.

The tracklisting includes quite a few songs with “symphony” in the title. Which is pretty exciting in and of itself…

Unfortunately the YouTube video was pulled for violating copyright. Here’s a link to the song on the Muse website.

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List of Songs I would have voted for…

I didn’t vote in JJJ’s hottest 100 of all time (here’s the list). I love the Js, but I haven’t listened to anything other than local ABC radio for months (except to listen to a little bit of the Hottest 100 of All Time).

It looks like the vote was crashed by a bunch of old time rockers with a penchant for Michael Jackson. There are hardly any songs from the last few years, which is pretty awesome.

If I had voted (and you get to vote for ten songs):

  1. I would have voted for one song per band
  2. I would have given greater weighting to songs from great albums or from bands producing consistently good music rather than one hit wonders.
  3. I would have rewarded bands who I appreciated in their halcyon days but don’t like so much any more (hence the inclusion of The Living End and Powderfinger – they really were my introduction to JJJ – even though they went on to be darlings of the mainstream).

These are the songs I think I would have voted for:

  1. Radiohead – Fake Plastic Trees.
  2. Muse – Plug In Baby
  3. Paul Simon – Call Me Al
  4. Smashing Pumpkins – Disarm
  5. Jeff Buckley – Last Goodbye
  6. Dandy Warhols – Get Off
  7. Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
  8. Powderfinger – Day You Come
  9. The Living End – Prisoner of Society
  10. Gomez – Shot Shot

Some of these songs were chosen arbitrarily as representatives of a band’s body of work – I really can’t decide what Radiohead, Muse, Smashing Pumpkins or Gomez song I like the best. Placebo and The Whitlams were unlucky not to make the list on the basis of criteria 3. 

Sound of Music

I’ve been on a bit of a sound wave this morning – with my earlier posts – and the slightly more heated than anticipated comments on my anti-U2 post. I’m not surprised. Bono’s public Christianity makes him a bit of a sacred cow.

But I don’t like to criticise things without offering solutions here are 5 bands that are better than U2. In my opinion*…

  1. Radiohead – both Coldplay and U2 wish they were as politically aware and musically diverse as Radiohead – incidentally – Radiohead are apparently recording a new album.
  2. Muse – another British band with less people and more musical talent (and a greater talent per capita ratio) than U2.
  3. Gomez – They are to alt.Country what the muppets are to puppetry. Defining. Actually they’re incredibly difficult to pigeon hole.
  4. Athlete – For those of you who like U2 because they’re easy listening try Athlete, or Death Cab for Cutie – both equally compelling in sound but less self-righteously musically annoying.
  5. Augie March  – not only are they Australian, intelligent, poetic, they’re “easy listening” without being middle of the road inoffensive babble.

There’s six bands in a list of five bands that I find more sonically pleasurable than U2. Here are 10 more that fit that category off the top of my head (or out of my iPod – which does contain a bit of U2 – early U2, back when the Edge didn’t look like the kind of guy you’d keep your children away from at public parks).

If you like saccharine music and just can’t help yourself – why not listen to Dave Matthews, or Simon and Garfunkel…

  1. Smashing Pumpkins
  2. Weezer
  3. Architecture in Helsinki
  4. Blur
  5. Oasis
  6. Cake
  7. Custard
  8. The Dandy Warhols
  9. Placebo
  10. The Panics

Those are just the bands – there are plenty of solo artists or balladeers who write nice, sweet music who are infinitely more compelling than a 50 year old who petulantly refuses to remove his sunglasses. I won’t list them. I think I’ve made my point. Why listen to one band that tries to appeal to every aspect of musicality and becomes middle of the road when you can embrace diversity which lets you appreciate the whole road, bit by bit.

That is all.

*I’m not sure this needs to be said on a blog. That’s kind of the point.

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Bridge over troubled water

Ok, ok, so I might be going overboard with my enthusiasm on the Simon and Garfunkel reunion – but humour me. A toll road is not a bridge. But it’s close.

Have you heard the story about Nick Bolton. He’s the shareholder threatening progress on Australia’s biggest infrastructure project.

Nicholas Bolton - From the SMH

Nicholas Bolton - From the SMH

His story is a lesson in always reading the fine print when snapping up a bargain. He thought he’d found one when he bought 47 million shares in the company building the Brisbane Airport Toll Road – BrisConnections. They cost him $47,000. The small print pointed to two future payments of $1 per share. But he missed that bit. Ouch.

Not to be deterred – or overly concerned about the looming $94 million payment he’ll have to make – Nick is trying to close down the company. He’s almost a majority shareholder – and there are others who are in the same boat.

He’s currently in court. It’s a funny story. Shame he doesn’t listen to Muse. Their lyrics may prove prophetic in his case. Ahh Muse. They’ve got a song for all seasons…

“take, take all you need
and i’ll compensate your greed
with broken hearts…”

“Say, it’ll make you insane
and it’s bending the truth
you’re to blame
for all the life that you’ll lose and
you watch this space
but i’m going all the way
and be your slave to the grave”
– Lyrics from The Small Print, by Muse

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Now coming to you in Wide Screen… at least from my end

Well, well, well… that of course is the answer to the question “what did the oil baron say when three new oil deposits were discovered in Iraq. The US of course simply said “Fire the torpedoes”, which was pretty useless because Iraq only has a very small coastline and there are much more effective ways to blow things up in Iraq. Strapping explosives to your chest seems to be one way… that’s not really funny is it. Not at all PC.

There’s not really much interesting stuff to write about today, owing to the fact that I spent yesterday in Charters Towers. It’s a hole. Or a series of them. Mostly because it contains a lot of tunnels left over from the gold mines. It is however, one of North Queensland’s premiere tourist destinations – attracting history buffs from all over the country. So if you like history it’s worth a visit. Or if you like meat pies. I’m sure it has plenty of redeeming features.

Today I took mum, dad, and Susie along to an Indy car roadshow thing in Townsville that I had to go to for work. There was lots of burning rubber, lots of noise, lots of girls in Indy outfits, and lots of the types of guys who enjoy those sorts of things. Then I went to WOW and bought a new screen for my computer… and more importantly, the new Muse CD. I’m impressed. I was worried at first. But it’s very good. It’s nothing like any of their old stuff. But Matt Bellamy is still the coolest front man strutting his stuff on stages around the globe.

That’s about it for this episode – be sure to check out the thoroughly politically incorrect ramblings at that other blog… http://philnsmiz.blogspot.com