Ranked: Muse

Formed in 1994, Muse are one of Britain’s most celebrated alternative rock acts. Demonstrating stellar progression throughout their discography, they have covered a wide and wild array of styles, from soft rock opera all the way to aggressive, robotic dubstep. The band regularly embed philosophical, political and societal issues within their music, which has resulted in a few concept-heavy albums. Here is my ranking of their studio album discography.

 

[7] Showbiz (1999)

100000x100000-999

Muse’s debut album landed towards the end of the alternative rock/grunge revolution that took the industry by storm throughout the nineties. At the time, Muse drew many comparisons to Radiohead, another British alt-rock outfit who had already released their acclaimed third record ‘OK Computer’ two years earlier. Critics saw Showbiz as derivative of material that had already been done, and with better execution.

Scratching the surface is a severe understatement when comparing their debut to other albums in Muse’s discography. The album has a few standout tracks, but as a whole, it was only a peephole glance of things to come from the promising and young band. It wasn’t until the following album that they had found their true musical direction.

Essential tracks: Muscle Museum // Showbiz // Hate This and I’ll Love You

 

[6] The 2nd Law (2012)

100000x100000-9996

The band’s sixth studio album is without a doubt their most diverse collection of tracks. The album definitely has highlights, however due to not having focused direction or a solid concept, it suffers from the lack of cohesion between the many, many ideas. The range of musical style on this record is absurd, we’ve got straight-up rock, opera-rock, synth pop, funk-rock, electronica and ‘Musestep’ (yes, Muse did dubstep). Bassist Chris Wolstenholme also takes up lead vocals for a couple of tracks.

There are a couple of fantastic tracks, such as ‘Panic Station’, a funky, upbeat homage to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’, as well as ‘Animals’, a moody rocker with brilliant, intricate guitar lines. Although, some tracks suffer from being overproduced, such as ‘Supremacy’ with its grandiose operatics. Therefore, the lack of cohesion and the many styles/genres being dotted around the tracklisting is why this record earns sixth place.

Essential tracks: Supremacy // Panic Station // Animals

 

[5] Drones (2015)

100000x100000-99938

Muse’s latest record promised to strip the operatics and grandiosity of their past two records and return to a more straight-forward, three-piece rock sound. Partner this musical direction with a running concept and narrative about drone warfare and you have Drones. The first half of the record contains some of Muse’s best work since the mid-2000s, such as ‘Reapers’, an epic track with great classic rock tendencies and Matt Bellamy’s falsetto vocals.

It could be said the latter half of the record is a drop in quality to the stellar first half, yet the concept is carried through. On release, I thought this record was great and deserved a spot in the band’s top three albums. As time has told, there’s something about Drones that has become uninteresting and doesn’t entice as many repeat listens as older Muse records.

Essential tracks: Dead Inside // Reapers // Defector

 

[4] The Resistance (2009)

100000x100000-99954

 

It was very close between this and Drones for fourth spot, it came down to my love for ‘Exogenesis: Symphony’ that closes The Resistance. This three-part “symphony” demonstrates the extent of Muse’s abilities to musically compose. Pt.1 (Overture) is one of my favourite ever pieces of music, mainly due to its orchestral flavour (arpeggiating synths/horns) and spooky tension conjured up throughout. Bellamy sings in falsetto, adding to the track’s atmosphere.

Enough talk of that, The Resistance earns fourth spot for its cohesion, presence (and fantastic artwork). It’s quintessential Muse; there’s cosmic connotations and synth arpeggios present in great tracks such as ‘Uprising’ and ‘Unnatural Selection’. The Resistance also contains some of Muse’s strongest politically-charged lyricism.

Essential tracks: Uprising // Unnatural Selection // Exogenesis: Symphony

 

[3] Origin of Symmetry (2001)

100000x100000-9991

Muse’s follow-up to their debut Showbiz set the path for where they are today. It gave the band a unique identity, it was fresh, rather than being tied to 90s alternative rock. It also spawned the band’s most famous hit ‘Plug in Baby’ with its infamous guitar riff. OoS kicked off the space/opera rock musical identity that has been present in every Muse album since. Moreover, it demonstrated Bellamy’s ability to create piano-based tracks that crossed into multiple styles and genres.

‘Space Dementia’ and ‘Citizen Erased’ are epic, sprawling rock operas, combining both guitar & piano to successful dramatic effect. ‘Dark Shines’, one of my favourite Muse cuts, possesses a sleek Spaghetti Western aesthetic that culminates in chaotic choruses. Considered by many fans as Muse’s magnum opus, it earns third place for me as they somehow managed to top this great record, twice.

Essential tracks: Space Dementia // Plug In Baby // Citizen Erased

 

[2] Black Holes & Revelations (2006)

100000x100000-9993

The band’s fourth album had to follow two critically acclaimed records, and funnily enough, it became another one. Black Holes & Revelations propelled the band towards further cosmic territory, doubling down on synth arpeggios and progressive rock thematics. Opener ‘Take A Bow’ features a minimalistic electro-synth beat that eventually explodes when Bellamy’s guitar enters and steals the show. ‘Supermassive Black Hole’, perhaps the most experimental track, features a dominating and wacky robotic guitar tone, coupled with Bellamy’s falsetto and Chris Wolstenholme’s fuzzy bass creating a fascinating dynamic.

BH&R earns second place for Muse’s highly-successful dynamic of dominant and softer tracks, as well as the varied styles and splendid cosmic aesthetic.

Essential tracks: Take A Bow // Supermassive Black Hole // Map of the Problematique

 

[1] Absolution (2003)

100000x100000-9992

Muse’s third record took a step back from the cold, harsh production of Origin of Symmetry, reinventing themselves with a deep, dark and thought-provoking record which is the band’s true magnum opus. Muse excel best when their deep down in melancholy, generating melodies from varied and dynamic instrumentation. Sure, the album contains mega-hits such as ‘Time is Running Out’, which has my favourite set of lyrics in any Muse song, as well as ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ & ‘Hysteria’ with its infamous bass riff.

Cuts such as ‘Sing for Absolution’, ‘Blackout’, ‘Ruled By Secrecy’ and ‘Fury’ (it’s a crime that this a bonus track) communicate stories through powerful, meaningful instrumentation. For me, Absolution will remain Muse’s greatest record due to its timeless presence and instrumental power evoked through the entire runtime, not just individual tracks.

Essential tracks: Time is Running Out // Sing for Absolution // Blackout // Ruled By Secrecy // Fury

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s