Muse are all set to headline Reading and Leeds this summer – but what scintillating guitar parts would we be most excited about hearing? Here’s Matt Bellamy’s top 10 riffs to date…
10 ‘Thoughts of a Dying Atheist’
Kicking things off is this heavily regimented, arpeggiated minor riff from a track about the utter hopelessness facing the likes of Dawkins – because hopelessness is apparently what Bellamy sees as a consequence of submitting to flawless logic. It’s a riff perfectly designed to make you ill at ease. Can you feel the despair?
9 ‘Falling Away With You’
This unassuming little riff electrifies in a different way. After the barrage of noise on the first half of ‘Absolution’, and especially at the end of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, this delicate melody – possibly Muse’s most delicate ever – appears from the same thin air it wants you to breathe. That’s before it blossoms into something much more ambitious and falls right away again. Makes a change.
8 ‘Hyper Music’
Early Bellamy was a fan of distortion, as ‘Hyper Music’ makes abundantly clear. This chunky riff is surprisingly hyperactive, jumping all over the place. He’s described this song – about “wanting to destroy a person you’ve loved” – as a mathematical counterpoint to ‘Bliss’. Luckily the riff itself isn’t so off-puttingly cerebral.
If this riff could speak, it would be saying “Let’s get technical” and frowning at you from one of those overly serious 80s training montages. This is about as virtuosic as Matt gets on the fretboard, and it’s really something to behold. Add in the cheeky interaction between bass and lead guitar and this one’s onto a winner.
6 ‘MK Ultra’
Looping in on itself like an unsolvable labyrinth, this riff is from a song named after a supposed CIA mind control program from the 60s. “How much longer till you break?” Bellamy asks. Now that meandering melody is starting to make sense – sinister, right?
5 ‘Knights of Cydonia’
Long before Django Django were mining spaghetti western for their space-cowboy aesthetic, Muse were at it with the glorious glam-rock staginess of ‘Knights of Cydonia’. But four minutes in, the classic cowboy sound gives way to an epic, meaty riff that lasts until the end of the song. It’s an important Muse lesson: if you can’t choose between two, why not have both?
This riff has been kicking around for an incredible 16 years, and you can see why Matt’s been holding it back: it’s an absolute stormer. It’s pretty much bottled attitude. The way it’s turned out, the first single from seventh album ‘Drones’ is based on one of Muse’s oldest riffs – so it’s no surprise, really, that it’s an absolute tune.
When you’ve got a killer bassline – and among killer basslines, this one would be considered armed and extremely dangerous – it could be easy to let that bassline do all the talking. That’s not the case with ‘Hysteria’. Here, Bellamy’s squealing guitar complements Wolstenholme’s bass no end. Sadly, the song’s about obsessive behaviour, so you’re not allowed to like it all that much.
2 ‘Supermassive Black Hole’
This song – and album – marked the point when Muse were beginning to give into their glam-rock influences. This one’s a simple riff, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t effective. Like a slinky radio snake it wove its way onto the airwaves and wouldn’t leave for months.
1 ‘Plug in Baby’
Along with ‘New Born’ and its creepy keyboard, this song – and more importantly, its undeniably brilliant, unending riff – was a defining moment in Muse’s early career. You can’t hear it and not be sucked in by its bending brilliance. A winding classic.