[center]CD Review – Muse, Black Holes & Revelations[/center]
[center]by Chris Pickering[/center]
The sleepy tourist town of Teignmouth in south Devon is an unassuming place. It was here in the middle of the Britpop era that three young men formed a band that eventually took on the name Muse. From that moment on everything about the band has been on a simply different scale to its humble origins. They rapidly established themselves as a cult live band, with an epic sound that seems impossibly large to be produced by three individuals.
After skirting the main stream since the late 90s, it was this 2006 album ‘Black Holes & Revelations’ and a subsequent Mercury Music Prize nomination that delivered Muse the recognition they deserve. The opening track ‘Take a Bow’ sets the scene with a brooding electronic melody that simmers like the devil’s own techno band, gradually rising to a pounding crescendo. It’s followed at relentless pace by the anthemic ‘Starlight’ with Matt Bellamy’s trademark vocals soaring over a mixture of distorted guitars and sci-fi synths. This track is perhaps as close to conventional rock as any on the album and indeed their whole repertoire somewhat defies classification, with seemingly schizophrenic changes from metal through to dance and even classical styles not just in the same album, but frequently the same track. A prime example of this is the penultimate track ‘Hoodoo’ which begins with a surf tinged Spanish guitar intro and descends into a melancholic ballad before erupting into a Schostakowitsch-esque piano finale. The whole thing is utterly mad, but sublime at the same time. It symbolises the way Muse manage to become continually more epic in scale without ever (quite) falling into farce. Their trump card remains acclaimed live performances and another track on the album, ‘Map Of The Problematic’ is probably the closest they’ve got to replicating those on CD. The unashamedly dance orientated synths and driving drum beat almost manage to capture the energy that this band has on stage.
This album has a slightly more polished sound than it’s predecessors with the influence of Rage Against The Machine producer, Rich Costey coming through on the mix. At the time of its release there were accusations that the new release had shed some of Muse’s raw edge, but their unique brand of new-prog shines through, in what is surely the group’s most complete album to date.
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