It all started with a little bit of piracy. I was 11 when my sister started my music collection off with four CDs copied from her own collection, and of those, only one has never left it in the 9 years since: ‘Absolution’. It is safe to say that Muse are a staple of my musical upbringing, like a guitar’s G string – sure, there’s lots of other strings to choose from, but you’ll notice it’s missing.
Some people aren’t keen on their self-important space rock, or Matt Bellamy’s piercing vocals. That’s fine. They’re wrong, but it’s fine for them to hold an opinion that is wrong. But as anyone with the correct musical taste will tell you, ‘Absolution’ is a stunning album – from the metronomic groove of ‘Time Is Running Out’ to the thrill of the bass in ‘Hysteria’, the thundering ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ to the delicacies of ‘Butterflies And Hurricanes’. Their music speaks of nightmares and melodrama, battles and broken hearts, which all obviously had great relevance to a country boy like myself.
I walked back in time through their history, collecting ‘Origin Of Symmetry’ and ‘Showbiz’, and I bought ‘Black Holes And Revelations’ when that hit the stores. I had a shitty band, and we tried to cover a couple of Muse songs – and after that failed due to our general lack of talent, I wrote songs that sound kind of similar if you turned the volume way down. We joked about how life turns into a Hollywood blockbuster when Muse is the soundtrack – how if you’re out buying olives, and ‘Hysteria’ shuffles on, all of a sudden you’re Liam Neeson in a shootout with your murderous ex-girlfriend to get the Sankara stones and avenge your father (OK, so there wasn’t much to do in the countryside).
I’m an honest-to-god fan. I even forgave them when they allowed their songs to be used in Twilight. (I am informed that my forgiveness was vital to their ongoing success.) We were delivered five studio albums of wholesome space-rocky goodness, peaking at the miracle of creation that is ‘Absolution’. I could gush about this album all day – because even the worst tracks on this album are better than ‘Madness’.
There, I said it. ‘Madness’ isn’t very good. It’s a massive departure from the Muse of yore, in a terrifying direction for those of us who grew up on ‘Bliss’. Deep down, I want to believe that one of my favourite bands isn’t losing their spark, as they have morphed over the last five years. ‘The Resistance’ was imperfect – in truth it has fallen from my mp3 player, but every band has bad days. They’re Muse, for goodness’ sake, they’ll be back on form soon.
But ‘Madness’ is no return to form, instead it is a white flag of submission. It’s anti-neo-dubstep or whatever they classify it as now, and while still pleasantly ambitious, it’s just all wrong. I would never wish to suggest bands shouldn’t evolve, but revolution risks going disastrously off-track – and in this fan’s opinion, Muse have transmogrified into an entirely different beast. The drums no longer roll like the ocean, the bass has been replaced with a warbling synth-guitar, and the guitar solo sounds like Brian May got trapped in a studio with the wrong band. It has its fans, but I would wager that few of those are the same fans who bought ‘Supermassive’ on release – because though Madness may be a competent song in its own respects, it is still several lightyears from the quality that we have grown to expect from the Teignmouth boys. This Muse is no longer my Muse.
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It is a strange experience to lose faith in a band that has been such a favourite. I will get ‘The 2nd Law’ when it comes out – but only because I already have every other Muse album, and I’m a masochist. And if you consider ‘Madness’ a good song, I suppose you should too. You’re a Muse fan, and I’m a Muse fan, but we’re talking about two different bands.