On the 15th anniversary of Muse's 2003 masterpiece, how many of its 'conspiracy theories' have proven true?
Matt Bellamy: the space rock Nostradamus? When it emerged 15 years ago, Muse’s mightiest rock statement ‘Absolution’ seemed a bleak and paranoid view of the universe – apocalypse, war, ecological collapse, shadowy cabals of global elite. But in 2018, it reads more like a Frankie Boyle column or a transcript of PMQs, frighteningly real and ominously close-to-home. Here are a few of the ways ‘Absolution’ foresaw apocalypse, now.
The rise of the far right
Even the album’s instrumental intro was prescient, the sound of marching armies and cries of “sieg heil!” Very much as you’d hear today at the average Free Tommy Robinson protest, or on LBC. Nazi groups are marching openly across the world – in America they’re even allowed to carry guns, with police dispersing peaceful protesters – their political wings are gaining ground across Europe and moderate governments are bending towards fascism to maintain their support bases. Only Bellamy saw the jackboots of 2018 coming.
We’re not quite at “the end of the world” just yet, but sheesh we’ve come close. “Declare this an emergency,” Bellamy howled on ‘Apocalypse Please’, “It’s time we saw a miracle… it’s time for something Biblical to pull us through”, and ever since Trump got his sticky dumb monkey thumbs on @POTUS, we’ve brushed nuclear armageddon on a bi-monthly basis. The North Korean stand-off, the threats to NATO, the nuclear wars prevented by aides distracting him from the Tweet button at the last minute with a sausage. Talking of which…
On the surface, ‘Time Is Running Out’ was about the desperate last throes of a relationship, but it’s not too difficult to discern a subliminal global warming metaphor in lines such as “I think I’m drowning, asphyxiated… our time is running out”. After all, our time was running out in 2003 and it’s pretty much run out now – latest reports suggest that we’re already on course for a 1.5 degree increase in global temperature and we’ve got until 2035 to take dramatic action to stop us hitting a 2 degree increase by 2100, above which much of the world would become uninhabitable. Tick tock.
The video for ‘Sing For Absolution’ involved Muse taking a shuttle from a technologically advanced planet, dodging the satellite-junk and space billboards of the stratosphere, and ultimately crash-landing on a red dust planet (with a twist). Sound familiar?
“You’ve got to change the world and use this chance to be heard/Your time is now,” Bellamy sang on the sprawling ‘Butterflies And Hurricanes’, a song suggesting that tiny things can have global impact. And so we’ve seen, as social media has given the public a pivotal voice, for good and ill. Both #metoo and Russian bot warfare have had seismic cultural and political effect, but who’s really in control?
Putin controlling the world
In 2003, ‘Absolution’’s closing track ‘Ruled By Secrecy’ – inspired by the Jim Mars book The Hidden History That Connects The Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons and the Great Pyramids – seemed like full-on tin-hatted conspiracy babble: “They’ll hide everywhere, and no one knows who’s in control”. Doesn’t seem quite so crazy now, with more and more evidence emerging that Putin decided the US election and swung it for Brexit with his army of secret Twitterbots.
Zero hours contracts? Pitiful day rates? Exorbitant rents decided by unscrupulous, cash-guzzling landlords? Did you not read ‘The Small Print’? Bellamy laid it out in 2003, in the subtext of a song about selling your soul to Satan and being “a slave to the grave”. How much am I getting for writing this again?