Muse : Hullabaloo Soundtrack

They're entertainers, no less...

In times of drought, it’s a recurrent plea: where are the Bowies, the Mercurys, the showman, the [I]shamen[/I]? At a moment when the Manics had solidified into lumpen ballast and, Christ, Stereophonics were considered a perfectly acceptable way for young men to behave, Muse filled the glamour gap with silliness to spare. They wrote songs of titanic ambition, made ridiculous pronouncements about spacemen and sex and later displayed a fondness for capering about onstage in a flurry of petals and silks. ‘Hullabaloo’ is a suitably opulent document of their success to date – a double CD, one disc featuring B-sides, the other a live set recorded at Le Zenith in Paris last year, it’s a testament to Muse‘s lordly, “roll-up-roll-up!” desire for attention.

Yet their idea of grandeur is one huge delusion: compare these circus-freak hysterics with the cosmic humanity contained within work by The Flaming Lips or Spiritualized and Muse‘s flaws are obvious. Despite Matt Bellamy’s reputation as a strange young man, there’s not a moment of sensitivity here, not a moment of convincing emotion – and not enough milk of human kindness to cover a bowl of cornflakes.

Sometimes, though, you just want a band to play the guitar on top of Buckingham Palace. For all their unlikeability, there’s something undeniably impressive going on here. The B-sides are diverting enough – in particular ‘Nature 1’, which swallows Led Zeppelin like a sequinned boa constrictor and ‘Shine Acoustic’ which worships shamelessly – and slightly worryingly – at the Gilbert And Sullivan shrine. It’s the live record, though, that really shows enjoyment doesn’t have to be a moral issue – or indeed, an issue of taste. Fuelled by Bellamy’s paranoid, overwrought shrieking – at times, it’s like being stalked by a distraught Dame Nellie Melba – they dip into Moulin Rouge ridiculousness in front of a fittingly excitable French audience. If these songs had moustaches, they’d be twirling them, indulging the preposterous, Hooded Claw idea of mystery and theatricality that pervades ‘Micro Cuts’ or ‘Space Dementia’.There aren’t many bands who can make you fall to the ground in helpless “what was that!” hilarity and for that alone, Muse, olympians of ludicrousness, should be watched with interest. They’re entertainers, no less. They’re certainly no more.

Victoria Segal