Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Muse – Uprising

And speaking of cracking the US top 40…


Martin Skidmore: Imagine mashing up the Doctor Who theme with Blondie’s “Call Me”. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Now imagine Muse doing it. Not so good, but gains points for being far less horrible than their Bo-Rhap abomination.

Peter Parrish: Matt Bellamy has written Ron Paul: The Musical and channeled the Doctor Who theme through Goldfrapp. If you don’t find that high-functioning absurdism quite irresistible then I dunno what I can do for you really.

Matt Cibula: I know they’re supposed to be the most awful prog-twats in the history of whatever but damn if they don’t steal all the right riffs here and put them together in a lovely way.

Kat Stevens: M. Bellamy ignores his ability to write ridiculously silly guitar riffs and settles for some poor-man’s-QOTSA schaffle dirge. I preferred Muse when they were screechy rather than sludgy.

Frank Kogan: A haunted house inhabited by friendly ghosts and freelance Cossacks. Singer rides his boogie to the rescue, like Mighty Mouse, and the Cossacks raise their eyebrows in “fright.” I have no idea if this song is serious – “They will not control us/We will be victorious” – but it’s a pisser.

Doug Robertson: For a band who pride themselves on the scale of their ambition and their ability to embrace both the sublime and the ridiculous in the sort of pudding that lacks not for eggs, this sounds an awful lot like something Kasabian would come up with. Sure, the palette contains a few more colours than Serge and his gang would ever consider using, and Matt’s voice instantly raises this track above the workmanlike, but listen to that chugga, chugga guitar. It’s as inspiration free as a daytime soap opera. I never thought I’d be saying this, but Muse really need to start thinking outside the box.

Michaelangelo Matos: At long last, Muse goes electroclash. And hey, they have a budget! So it sounds like actual big, meaty early ’80s sleaze-disco, including the stinging two-note guitar hook. Singer’s still an unctuous dink, of course, but at least he makes me wonder if I’ve missed something else, a first in this band’s history.

Alfred Soto: Not quite an uprising, more like a catwalk. The keyboards are vulgar, the vocal shrill, the synth bass and drums syncopated. I’m not sure what this supposed to do besides serve as a soundtrack for single women trying to get their Coyote Ugly on.

Anthony Easton: Rock and roll is supposed to be all about liking the drugs, and frankly Muse strike me as one of those bands that enjoys chic pharmaceuticals, so I am not buying the neo-puritanism they are selling.

Edward Okulicz: This record is obviously designed to incense most critics who probably regard its audience with as much contempt as they do the band itself — and perhaps with some reason. But far from being the abject wank their teaser was, this is basically “Knights of Cydonia” sped up, with added “oi” bits played over the top of “I Don’t Care” by Fall Out Boy. And why not? You can’t take the (M)us(e)-against-the-world lyrics seriously, and while I worry a bit about those who connect emotionally to this sort of stuff, I totally understand those who do so viscerally — it’s pretty enjoyable nonsense.

Iain Mew: I’ve not been as nonplussed by any review this year as much as one I read of “Uprising” which compared Muse positively to other current pop as “they actually have something to say”. It’s a song about how we’re being sinisterly controlled by green belts! That out the way, this is actually rather good glam rock, especially the crunchy start/stop moments. They’ve graduated from lifting their hooks wholesale from classical music to lifting them wholesale from Doctor Who, but make them their own just as energetically.

Chuck Eddy: Over the past couple years, I’ve taken to calling the shuffling martial dance-metal stomp employed here (which I hear employed quite often lately) the “Beautiful People” beat, but that can’t be its original source, can it? Because Swine Flu victim Marilyn Manson couldn’t have actually invented anything, right? Here, it starts out kind of like Gary Glitter (surrounded by Gary Numan atmospherics), but once the singing starts, it’s Marilyn all the way. And said singing is overwrought to the point of ridiculousness, but to my ears more in an amusing way than annoying way.

Al Shipley: Oddly enough, this reminds more than anything else of the crappy glam stomp that Fall Out Boy released as a lead single last year, completely with the splashy falsetto bits. Bit of a drag then, bit of a drag now.

Martin Kavka: A 6/8 beat should be inherently sexy. This strikes me as neutered, although I can’t quite tell why. Perhaps it’s just the fact that the drums need to be mixed up further. But perhaps it’s the apocalyptic lyric: who has time for sex when you have to save the world from US domination?

11 Responses to “Muse – Uprising”

  1. Gotta agree with Martin K: it really lacks the swagger of something like Strict Machine or even I Don’t Care, and doesn’t exactly replace that with anything else.

    Like most of the new album, kind of unremarkable (I prefer Muse at their most classically inspired to these incredibly vague resistance anthems anyway).

  2. If being “victorious” means making Depeche Mode and The Darkness seem less annoying by comparison, then yeah, you guys win.

  3. So if I’m reading Martin’s blurb correctly, does that make this the first time a long-lived foreign band has actually broken through in the US with a song critical of the US? (“American Woman” was the Guess Who’s first American #1, but they had had a few smaller hits before it. “I’m So Bored With The USA” was not a US hit in any sense, and they were new anyway.)

    Also, anybody know what precipitated said breakthrough? I shamefully haven’t been keeping up with my former employer Billboard obviously, but are they getting modern rock airplay? Or is this in a commercial or on some TV show? Or did British expats just suddenly go on a download rampage? (Muse did make the cover of Spin recently, right? So maybe it’s all been meticulously orchestrated from above.)

    Finally, when Edward refers to critics’ contempt for Muse’s audience, can somebody please explain what sorts of folks that audience consists of? (I’ve just always assumed their audience is, uh, “British people,” but I’m now concluding that maybe there are more specific ways to describe said crowd.)

    I’m also getting the idea that non-Britishers who have no Muse baggage tend to rate the band’s singles higher here than Britishers to whom they mean something. Am I wrong?

  4. Damn fucking html. I always promise myself I’ll doublecheck my /’s and >’s, but then never get around to it.

    Anyway, in re: “I’m So Bored With The USA,” “they” obviously means “The Clash.”

    Also. I clearly need to get off my butt and listen to the Doctor Who theme one of these days, since British people are always mentioning it, but I don’t have the slightest idea how it goes. Is it possible that’s the source for what I’m calling the “Beatiful People” beat? (I need to check out that Fall Out Boy song too, probably. I’ve kind of made a point of not knowing what Fall Out Boy songs sound like, which is very irresponsible of me. But I don’t think I hear Blondie’s “Call Me” as does Martin — Skidmore, as opposed to Kavka who pointed out the US domination stuff. The “Call Me” beat is the same as the Black Sabbath “Children Of The Grave” beat, which is the same as the Jefferson Airplane “Crown Of Creation” beat, which is the same as the Butthole Surfers “Dum Dum” beat, which I’m pretty sure is also the same as the David Bowie “John I’m Only Dancing” beat, but I’m almost positive that’s an entirely different beat than the one here.) (Wonder what specific sleaze-disco Matos thinks this sounds like, too.)

  5. Hi Chuck! I tend to think that a lot of stuff that gets written about Muse assumes that they’re like a Fisher Price prog/rock band that little kids (read: 14-year-olds) who hate the world get into because they’re not ready yet for real rock or real prog, or they’re too stupid to realise they’re supposed to be listening to Radiohead. (FWIW, I’ll take “Black Holes and Revelations” over the last four Radiohead albums. Lots more fun. Cue scorn!)

    The reality is of course that in places (like Europe) where they get played on the radio habitually, they’re popular with a lot of casual rock fans. It’s a Coke/Pepsi thing, where people have a choice, a lot of people will drink Pepsi, and a lot of people listen to Muse completely ignorant of their status as a critical pariah around some parts.

  6. I really really liked this song.

  7. I was a reasonably big fan of Muse for their first two albums and I fitted into the assumed demographic Edwardo describes above pretty well (except I liked Radiohead AS WELL ph34r my indie cred). For a start, Radiohead weren’t touring the UK much in the late 90s and Muse filled a nice gap there. All their live-show technical skill really impressed me – now obv I realise I should have been listening to Hocus Pocus by Focus for three years instead. Progtastic.

  8. “Starlight” off their last album was a huge US modern rock hit.

  9. Chuck, the ‘Call Me’ resemblance was in the vocal interjections rather than the beats.

  10. Chuck, drop me a line at and I’ll hapily supply you with the (quite great) original Dr. Who theme, which as a Canadian I grew up with (it’s that whole half-US half-UK thing).

  11. Also: