I’m sometimes accused of only liking obscure prog-rock bands who sing about Hobbits in 9/8 time. One Guardian music journalist who shall remain nameless has called me the “Prog Taliban” and claimed that I don’t like pop music.
So why am I reviewing a Muse album? Because, despite the fact that they’ve headlined the indie-centric Glastonbury Festival and you can probably get their albums in Asda, Muse are a really prog-rock band.
Opener “Supremacy” begins with a dirty Jack White style guitar riff accompanied by marching Dream Theater keyboards before moving to a classically-inspired vocal melody, with a guitar solo repeating the same motif. There’s something very Prog about the whole thing.
And it goes on like that. Yes, there still are plenty of homages to Queen, starting with the pseudo-dubstep “I Want To Break Free” of “Madness”. Then there’s the disco-funk of “Panic Station”. There are nods to U2. But “Animals”, with it’s wonderful rippling guitar could easily have come from a recent Marillion album. The wide-screen atmospherics of “Save Me” recall recent Anathema, and some of the guitars remind me of mid-period Genesis. The cinematic two-part title track that closes the album is just monstrous with it’s huge choirs and Pink Floyd-style voiceovers.
This is an album that mixes pop, metal, electronica with grandiose classical sweeps and arpeggios. A lot of it is bombastic and completely over the top, but it wouldn’t really be a Muse album if it wasn’t. They’ve got a pop sensibility; three or four minute songs with big choruses. But they pack so many musical ideas into those three or four minutes.
The way the album mixes bits of many different genres to produce something more than the sum of parts reminds me of Panic Room’s SKIN. Yes, there are obvious homages to other bands which have drawn comparisons with Oasis’ pillaging of rock history. But Muse draw from a far, far broader sonic palette than simple meat-and-potatoes guitar rock. The result is an album that ought to appeal to any self-respecting prog-rock fan.