Seen as something of a division point in Muse’s discography, the album marks the beginning of an unspecified change in Muse. The grumblings of forum-dwelling hardcore nut fans isn’t the last word, but given their dedication to barrier-clinging and setlist-dissection, their input is worth considering: a consensus that post-Resistance, Muse became less interesting.

One possible indicator for this is the amount of singles that survived the end-of-tour setlist cull, i.e. once a certain album’s ‘era’ has ended, which songs from it are good enough or elicit a strong enough reaction from the crowd to be worth packing into future sets. While older songs provoking a better reaction live is a near-universal rule for any band or artist, it’s still telling – except, of course when a greater number of the audience are johnny-come-latelys who don’t know the words to Bliss and can’t recognise it from the intro alone, the twats (see: London Stadium, June 2019).

The Resistance also had the honour of being the first new album in their new era of playing stadiums. Having first punched above their weight with the pair of Wembley Stadium gigs in 2009 – landing a pair of knockout blows – the subsequent tours saw the opting of larger arenas and stadiums where possible, with a suitably bonkers stage-setup to play with: three moving towers for Matt, Dom, and Chris to stand inside, plus the usual array of retina-melting lights and lasers.

Muse positioned themselves at Lake Como, Italy for recording – Matt already living there anyway, and Dom and Chris, er, renting some flats.  Songwriting began in 2008, though some kind of lengthy Bellamy orchestral piece was long-rumoured for years prior and the band were already brimming with ideas and hitherto-undisclosed desires regarding new styles and directions.

Rick Rubin was brought in to produce, only to be told to fuck off: Bellamy would allude to the non-starter by cheekily thanking the beardie-weirdie “…for teaching us how not to produce” at a Music Producers Awards ceremony when accepting Single of the Year. Self-producing seemed to be one of the many desired autonomy conditions for a new album, and the aforementioned Como home studio allowed them a much greater sense of freedom from outside pressures and influences – presumably to spend more time drinking wine and firing insects into space, as with predecessor Black Holes & Revelations.

Rick Rubin

Rick Rubin, LA

2008 also saw Matt first discussing a desire to move away from standard album formatting, instead releasing standalone songs and eventually compiling them onto an album at a later date – only for what became The Resistance to gradually appear to work better as one. The band would eventually toy with this idea for the pre-released singles for last year’s Simulation Theory.

The album sticks its three singles up front in a poppy hat-trick, possibly in a canny you-can-trust-us bid to lower the guard of any unsuspecting new listeners. Taken in by the fistpumpbynumbers of Uprising, the cosmic earnest yearning of Resistance and the gradual burning of Undisclosed Desires, the weird cod-Egyptian strains of United States of Eurasia (+Collateral Damage) lands the first blow in the name of typified Muse epicosity and unabashed eccentricities.

Guiding Light remains a plodding stadium-shagging paean, slotting well into the overall framework of the record – but given the choice between this, Dead Star, or eating dried paint, the choice is obvious. Thankfully, it has not been played for six years (and counting). Cynicism aside, it is hard to critically fault Bellamy’s impassioned yelling, astounding guitar work, Howard’s huge drum sound, Wolstenholme’s fantastically fat-arsed bass and the perfectly crisp production. Ho hum.

The double-act of MK-Ultra and Unnatural Selection admirably try to restore heavy guitar credibility and some degree of seriousness, adding more to the 1984 As Played By Muse sensibilities.

While being fanciful, far-reaching and overblown is to be expected with almost anything Muse do, the pudding was over-egged with the execrable   I Belong to You (+Mon Cœur S’ouvre a ta Voix), which featured Bellamy singing in French, along with a clarinet, believed to have been rammed up his arse. If it is ever worth revisiting (it isn’t), it’s worth remembering this quote from Dom, in a 2009 Q magazine interview: “Not everyone gets the Monty Python aspect to our music, but it’s there. There are some serious ideas, but a lot of the musical accompaniment and flourishes are done in a spirit of fun. We’re often laughing as we record.” To date, it has only been performed five times – meaning only a tiny minority of fans were lucky enough to hear the pure poetry and searing insight of “Then she attacks me like a Leo/while my heart is split like Rio”. Eh?

Thankfully, it gives way to the long-threatened epic Exogenesis: Symphony. In contrast to the above diatribe, it is a damn shame the band have never found an opportunity to do all three parts in succession, only the first. It would surely be an unashamed act of utter indulgence and would bore the bollocks off half the audience, thus fitting into a Muse show perfectly.

The Resistance remains a perfectly serviceable representative of Muse’s many offerings. In the decade since its release, however, it stands in an increasingly crowded discography, somewhere at the back: newcomers would likely be drawn to the ‘classic trio’ of Origin of Symmetry, Absolution and Black Holes & Revelations, providing as they do the bulk of their ostensible classics. Recent disc Simulation Theory is funkier and flashier, while Drones is a go-to for moody teenagers, those seeking heavier climates and combinations of the two. Only The 2nd Law is even less essential, debut record Showbiz slightly more so for the purpose of bookending the collection.

So, for any new Musers (Muses?), by all means wallow in the pomposity of The Resistance, top to bottom. Marvel at the burgeoning electronics, Bellamy’s realised classical aspirations and the bright, clean production. But do it after you’ve done almost everything else: for a lesser band, The Resistance would be a classic album – but for most of what it offers, Muse have either already done it better or would go on to do it better elsewhere.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.