It is not at all ironic that first track on the latest Muse album is titled “Take a Bow”. The track is actually about some country’s leader who has rigorously committed grievous sins against it. So in the context of the song, of course, yes, the title is ironic, but I read it more as a stage direction for Muse, on Goffman’s stage of everyday life, that they wrote for themselves. Yes, they are good, and they bloody know it. Take a supermassive bow.
The operatic heights of high art school rock are reached once again by Muse (every pun intended). After hearing the last album I wanted to kill something for the injustice of the universe that a band this good could suddenly realise it and hence immediately and for all time become exceptionally shit, or, worse, tiresome. What the latest album has over all others is that Muse have decided to listen to more 1970s opera rock and soundtracks to epic films and television shows. They have created an aesthetic tour de force of epic rock, which unlike chart-pop which only manages to harness the awesome power of a refrain or two (or maybe half a dozen if you are the Rogue Traders), each Muse track on the current album is a multiplicity of refrains. A multiplicity. Is this even possible? Each riff sounds like that riff I heard before, but different. The beats and rhythm work in tandom like a slick pick-pocketing duo to steal my subconscious proprioceptive concentration and replace it with a tapping foot and nodding head. I step out into the world when I am relaxed and seated and listening to this album; it is of the world, but one which hasn’t yet come and yet at the same time repeats everything that has already happened. Supermassive refrain.
The last track is my favourite: “Knights of Cydonia”. If you ever wondered what a Tim Burton science-fiction film set in the cross-over universe of Harry Potter and Mad Max would sound like in epic rock form then this is it. Cydonia is of course a geological structure on Mars. The track does have a “Final Countdown” feel to it, more in the sense of a resolute course of action, a finality, although less Swedish. It is an excellent gym song, or perhaps driving song. It has a pretty decent ‘kick’ halfway through; you know, the bit of the song where it ‘kicks’. Think Bohemian Rhapsody in the Wayne’s World scene. That is the kick. But this is infinitely more strange and familiar at the same time. The uncanniness of moving back to a place that was once your home a long time ago and which has been lived in by someone else. It kicks in a rolling, continuous way, not unlike a Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song (perhaps in the famous Viking Kittens form, which I thought was Viking Hamsters when I saw it years ago, but whatevers). Holy Shit. I just did some more googling and they have made a movie of sorts.
“Starlight” sounds like an episode of the new Dr Who series perhaps in some moment where there is a makeshift romantic dinner, one that is actually shit, perhaps on the edge of some apocalypse or another, but through the supreme power of a generous imagination it is accepted as the most romantic evening in all eternity, and this song is the kiss that seals the evening as a success and a memory, as this kiss becomes that kiss. However, a very British kiss, more British than Dr Who. The moment of the kiss is spread out thin in musical form like a sheet of pasta to be cooked by Jamie Oliver for some slightly inebriated b-grade celebrity who is also one of his ‘mates’. Supermassive British.
Perhaps the most intriguing song is “Super Massive Blackhole“. Maybe they have been reading A Thousand Plateaus, or maybe just the crib sheets, on someones website. I think it is more likely that they were trying to capture the sophistication of a teenager stepping out wearing heels for the first time. A certain kind of innocence, a will-to-sophistication. They are not quite sophisticated yet, but they are trying so hard in a cool and hip sort of way that should become an advertisement for mobile phones involving accelerated time-lapse footage of the history of the universe. From Big Bang to Blackhole… Supermassive Blackhole, sorry. It’s Super. It’s Massive. It’s… log.
The fellows at Muse have grasped the nature of contemporary listening practices perfectly. Unlike Deleuze and Guattari’s minor literature producing a new Earth for a people yet to come, Muse’s pure genius is to have produced a soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t yet exist. This album is pure movie soundtrack. They should get labels made up, like the 99% fat free or 100% pig meat, they need 100% movie soundtrack. In the shape of a big star. Movie soundtracks have a special place in my heart, they allow me to work at my computer for hours on end. The latest one is “Lady in the Water” but Muse’s album is even more epic than that. Contemporary listening practices mean computers and iPods and MP3 players. Listening to Muse means turning your bus trip and walk home or arduous stacking of some irrelevant item at work into an epic battle of restraining yourself. A pure musical ‘unleashiness’ raging through the listening body. It is a battle more epic than that of Rohan’s Gate. Swept away, caught up, inspired to dance upon the face of the world. The battle is between this awesome power of Muse and the crushing biopolitical reality of workplace discipline or public transport etiquette. Well done Muse, because we catch the bus and walk like a Johnnie Walker advertisement, or continue to work day in day out, we suffer a thousand little defeats everytime we listen to your soundtrack. The soundtrack to a thousand little defeats that keeps us slaves going everyday. You, Muse, inspire me in a post-gothic sort of way that makes me want to buy a thickshake.
And can someone please buy the lead singer the present he didn’t get at Christmas when he was 7 and really wanted so he stops sounding like a whining arsehole? That or he thinks he is still 7 years old and pretending to be a ghost.
WhooooooaaaaaAAAAAAAAhhhhhhhhooooooooo! <-- best Muse lyric ever, or at least it is their favourite cause they have him sing it ALL THE TIME. I sing it all the time now too: WHHHHHhhoooooooooherrrrrrrrRRRRRRRRReee aaaaRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrre myyyyYYYYYYYY CAAAAAAARRRRRRRrrrrrrr ke e e eeeeeyyyyyYYYYYYSSSSSS!?!?!?!?! Muse, a revelation: Get over yourselves.