One of the most instantaneous, fixating listens of the year...
Jamie Milton
13:55 14th September 2009

To expect Muse to produce a life-changing, serious piece of music is akin to expecting the British National Party get voted into power only to open the nation's borders to Eastern Europe or expecting Emile Heskey to bag a hat-trick in the World Cup semi-final. It's nonsense, and aside from the core elite of Muse's followers, everybody knows that.  If we give Matt Bellamy the benefit of the doubt, then his group's latest work can be viewed in a much friendlier, forgiving light. He can be excused from lines such as: "Are we digging a hole? This is out of control!" and we can pretend to turn a blind eye to his belief in 9/11 conspiracy theories. But should one give a band so many chances? Well, when a record sounds as adventurous, outgoing and free as this one does, then without doubt, yes we should.

When you wipe those nasty rhyming couplets to one side, and get out your fact-finding glasses, 'Resistance' unveils itself to be a bit of a smart cookie. Based upon George Orwell's "literary classic", '1984', it covers the political crux, the romantic contrast and the sense of defiance that emerges from the book. 'Uprising' details the refusal to give in to - in the context of '1984' - a totalitarian regime. 'United States of Eurasia''s dramatic, pounding grandiose fittingly covers the conflict element and the title-track's fragile opening beautifully introduces the notions of love, but along with that, fear of being undone from the relationship by the "thought police".

Without this hidden context, Muse's fifth album remains wild, unpredictable and inventive. Granted, chorus' remain chant-able, as per 'Starlight' or 'Hysteria', but surrounding every sing-along is something new, almost unheard of from Bellamy and co. 'Unnatural Selection' pits a New Born-esque riff against jazz organs to dramatic effect and 'Unnatural Desires' manages to tangle Rn'B-style production with slap bass. It sounds ghastly, I know. But as did 'United States...' and the Blondie-meets-Battles lead single 'Uprising' the first time they were unveiled. In album form, they somehow emerge away from the mediocrity-inducing mist and have just as much of an impact as the rest of the record.

Bellamy is at centre stage, unsurprisingly. Living up to his title of "rock's sexiest man"; he huffs and puffs before repeating verses in French in 'I Belong To You'. Prior to that, he casts a Queen-sized shadow on the stupendously gigantic ballad 'Guiding Light', and he dominates the musical sphere throughout with guitar solos and Chopin piano pieces. But his finest achievement to date with Muse comes through this ambitious symphony that concludes the album. Commencing as dark and reflective, Bellamy conducts the strings to swim from off to on, from dark to uplifting and it all climaxes with optimism through fluttering drum pattern and the closing line, "this time we'll get it right...", as they so crucially do.

And when the symphony dies out, you ask yourself whether Muse really are that stupid after all. The answer is: during their career they've always managed to achieve a balance between the sublime and the ridiculous. On 'The Resistance', they merely master that once more, whilst somehow managing to open new boundaries. Benefits of the doubt aren't required: 'The Resistance' is one of the most instantaneous, fixating listens of the year.

More about: