What a weird album. If you’re already a fan of Muse, this may or may not be a good thing, so be prepared. Stylistically, it’s all over the map, like one of those stopgap collections released by artists when they want to round up stray singles, B-sides, and songs which didn’t fit anywhere else. It shouldn’t work at all. And yet . . . it moves. (Oh, snap! Who just dropped a Galileo reference into a music review? Tip o’ the hat to all my science homies.)
The opening track, “Supremacy,” sounds like a lost James Bond theme. “Survival” was the official song of the 2012 London Olympics and is bombastic in the best possible way. “Madness”—one of their finest songs due to its sexy, slinky simplicity—sounds like a cross between U2 and Lloyd Cole if they had all gotten together in 1993. (Yes. It’s that time-specific.) Of course, anyone wholly familiar with Muse knows that Muse are not wholly unfamiliar with the word “derivative”—that tag has dogged them since day one, and with this album they take it to a whole ‘nother level.
The well-documented Queen fetish still shows up (80s Queen, though: somebody’s been listening to Hot Space and The Works), but they’ve managed to limit the major Radiohead sound primarily to one song (“Animals”). There’s more, however. Oh, so much more. What else have the guys in Muse been
ripping off influenced by listening to? INXS, David Bowie, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller . . . and that’s all crammed into just one song (“Panic Station”). Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” shows up, surprisingly enough (“Follow Me”). Early 80s Rush (mostly in the lyrics). More David Bowie. More Queen. And “Big Freeze” is the greatest imitation/tribute/parody/? of U2 that’s ever been attempted. It’s so spot on that I’m not entirely sure how to take it. It even mentions a U2 song in the lyrics (“Electrical Storm”). They also throw in a little more Queen for good measure. (In fact, they splatter Queen throughout the album like Jackson Pollack having a seizure.) It’s all just so bizarre. And yet . . .
As with everything Muse does, it is a ludicrous and over the top album. It’s also supermassive fun. I’m not sure Muse intended “fun” since some of the lyrics involve questions about the environment and energy and something about fascism (maybe), but that’s too bad, Muse! If you’re going to cross the Highlander soundtrack with the Pretty In Pink soundtrack and then top it with a frothing of U2 and Radiohead at their poppiest, your audience will find themselves compelled to Wang Chung tonight. (Rip it up . . . Move down.) And yet . . .
I’ve read a ton of comments from longtime Muse fans who really hate this album. Not enough guitars, too disjointed, the last 2 “songs” suck. All true. But the album—and its weirdness—grows on you with repeated playing. If you’re one of these fans, and you don’t like these songs, then I would like to point out that you are an enemy of both “fun” and “Wang Chung.” And those are not good enemies to have. Watch your back, muchacho.