10‘Exogenesis Symphony (Parts 1, 2 & 3)’
At times, Muse’s symphonic fifth album, ‘The Resistance’, saw the band rocket so deep into the prog cosmos that fans feared they’d never return. Fortunately, the band averted total disaster on tracks like this, a three-part, thirteen-minute suite that never threatens to be anything less than preposterous, in the best way.
9‘Take a Bow’
No one knew quite what to expect from ‘Black Holes and Revelations’, the follow-up to third LP and commercial breakthrough ‘Absolution’. ‘Take a Bow’ stated its case from the get-go: celestial synths, volcanic bass warps and a soaring vocal from Matt that theatrically informs a nameless enemy they “must pay for your crimes against the Earth”. Business as usual, then, albeit on an interstellar scale.
This ‘Origin of Symmetry’ freak-out is a fuck you to the laws of both rock music and common sense, tossing around flaming riffs like a toddler going nuts in a satanic ball pit. A depraved fusion of grandiose frock-rock and primordial synth-punk à la Brainiac, the track signposted Muse’s newfound ability to streamline heavy metal into pop without sacrificing its savage fury or complexity.
Mellow but no less mystifying, ‘Darkshines’ derails ‘Origin of Symmetry’’s space-opera party with Spanish guitar wibbles and a perky R’n’B bassline ripped straight from Sisqo’s ‘The Thong Song’. Then, 70 seconds in, there’s a joyous guitar solo that sounds like it’s being played on 1000 kazoos. A barmy precursor to their funk-metal sojourns on later records.
At this point, it takes more than a few jarring operatic inflections and grandiose lyrical quirks to perk Muse aficionados’ ears up. But when ‘Follow Me’ abandons all pretence at rock music and explodes into arpeggio-laden, EDM carnage, even the instruments sound surprised, as banging synths, spiralling backing vocals and reverb-smothered snares get swallowed up into a sonic black-hole.
6‘Brand New Day’ by Dizzee Rascal
Dizzee Rascal looked set for cult stardom after winning the Mercury Prize for ‘Boy in da Corner’, and this low-key performance barely hints at his star potential. Grime had reached UK living rooms when So Solid Crew topped the charts, but this reflective track about growing up on council estates was an unignorable statement that cemented Dizzee’s hero status.
Entropy and intricacy go hand in hand on Planet Muse, and ‘Space Dementia’ sees the band master the art of chaos. Cymbals splatter and pianos unzip madly, before Matt’s alien vocal charts a mournful path through the deserted space-station of the song’s chorus.
‘Unsustainable’ marks the true peak of Muse’s quasi-political imperial phase. After a tense, minute-long intro, a news reporter pops up to explain how the principle of thermodynamics - whereby chaos looms as resources dwindle – might illuminate something about our economic collapse. Then comes a bombardment of malfunctioning EDM squiggles that zipwire erratically through dubstep drops and prog crescendos, drowning out the sad robot who’s repeating the song’s title like an omen.
3‘Supermassive Black Hole’
Muse never minced their words when it came to mapping out plans for world domination, but that didn’t make this pop swerve any less alarming. The lead track from ‘Black Holes and Revelations’, ‘Supermassive’ mingled syncopated beats, falsetto groans and funk-metal verses to craft an space jam light-years from the anthemics of ‘Time is Running Out’ and ‘Hysteria’.
Edging out its older, bizarro-funk cousin, this single from ‘The 2nd Law’ is so brilliantly flamboyant it flirts with self-parody. But that’s half the fun with Muse, isn’t it? If ‘Panic Station’ were any more over-the-top it’d be in the stratosphere, which is essentially where all Muse’s other songs live, anyway.