The British prog-rock trio Muse, led by singer/guitarist Matt Bellamy, is among the biggest draws in Europe. Yet Muse has, until recently, mostly flown under the radar Stateside. The fact that The Resistance debuted at No. 3, however, suggests that the band has begun to break through to American audiences.
Even if you’re unfamiliar with Muse, you’d likely recognize the arena-rock influences on this ambitious effort. The band’s homage to Queen is impossible to miss. Comparisons to U2, Radiohead, Depeche Mode and even ELO are also apropos. The band blends epic rock riffs with symphonic orchestration, so much so that The Resistance sounds at times like a sci-fi soundtrack.
And it turns out that’s not far off. The Resistance is a concept album about an Orwellian regime. Paranoia rules as two lovers foment the titular resistance … then bid farewell to Earth forever. In that sense, it’s not unlike Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown—except for the fact that the conclusion is way more cosmic.
Several songs ("Uprising," "Unnatural Selection" and "Resistance") speak positively—if vaguely—about the importance of truth. On the title track, Bellamy cries, "We can’t hide the truth inside." "Uprising" raises a defiant fist in the face of dehumanizing totalitarianism ("They will not control us/We will be victorious"). A man perhaps has a romantic partner’s best interests in mind when he suggests, "I want to reconcile the violence in your heart/ … I want to exorcise the demons from your past" ("Undisclosed Desires"). "Guiding Light" laments the loss of someone dear ("You were my guiding light"). "I Belong to You" ponders how love might heal someone’s brokenness.
That already mentioned cosmic conclusion is quite existential. The three-part finale, "Exogenesis," chronicles the departure of a few souls who’ve been selected to propagate the human race elsewhere in the cosmos. "Symphony Part 1 (Overture)" ponders the big questions: "Who are we? Where are we? When are we? Why are we?" "Part 2 (Cross Pollination)" brims with hope as the celestial explorers embark. And in "Part 3 (Redemption)" we hear that they believe they have a chance to undo mankind’s mistakes ("Let’s start over again/ … This time we’ll get it right/Last chance to forgive ourselves").
The ever-present specter of apocalypse yields pessimism, apathy and hopelessness on several tracks. Prayers are deemed naive on "Resistance" ("Kill your prayers for love and peace"). Religion is labeled a "mind virus" on "Unnatural Selection." Similarly, "Exogenesis: Symphony Part 1 (Overture)" rejects the idea of a good God ("Trapped in God’s program/Oh, I can’t escape"). "Uprising" offers an approving nod to the New Age idea of a mystical third eye ("If you could flick the switch and open your third eye/You’d see that/We should never be afraid to die").
"Undisclosed Desires" hints at a sexual undercurrent in a relationship ("I want to satisfy the undisclosed desires in your heart"). Lines that follow imply promiscuity, duplicity and lost innocence ("You trick your lovers/That you’re wicked and divine/You may be a sinner/But your innocence is mine").
Matt Bellamy and Co. swing for the fences on The Resistance, both musically and lyrically. Big? Yup. Pretentious? Maybe. Or definitely if symphonic rock paired with existential space opera isn’t your bag.
Muse repeatedly tells us that truth is important and suggests that fighting for it matters. Along the way to the stars, however, God as the guide to that truth unfortunately get jettisoned.