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Album review: Muse, 'The Resistance'

September 15, 2009 |  4:30 pm
Muse This over-the-top English trio has long played to smaller audiences in the United States than it does throughout Europe, where Muse is considered among the biggest rock bands on Earth. (In 2007 it played two sold-out shows at London's 75,000-capacity Wembley Stadium.)

Yet singer-guitarist Matt Bellamy, bassist Chris Wolstenholme and drummer Dominic Howard received a considerable boost on these shores last year when their song "Supermassive Black Hole" was featured prominently in the hit movie "Twilight." And last week came news that "Uprising," the lead single from the band's fifth full-length, had topped the U.S. alternative-rock radio chart.

In some ways, "The Resistance" seems designed for an American breakthrough: "Undisclosed Desires" rides a lithe R&B groove that could've come from a song by Nelly Furtado, while "Uprising" finds Bellamy sympathizing with folks who consider themselves victims of Wall Street greed. Over a thumping disco-glam beat he sneers, "It's time the fat cats had a heart attack," a line that's likely to draw a huge reaction later this month when Muse opens a string of U2 shows on the East Coast and in Texas.

On the other hand, much of "The Resistance" reflects how uninterested the members of Muse are in dialing down their appealing flamboyance to attract Daughtry and Nickelback fans. That arty intransigence often improves the band's music, as in "United States of Eurasia," which proceeds from a pretty piano-ballad intro to an Arabian-accented orchestral-rock climax.

Occasionally, though, it can make Bellamy and his bandmates sound like the world's most successful sourpusses. You don't have to make it all the way through "Exogenesis," the three-part symphony that closes the new album, before you start hankering for a Nickelback-style chorus.

-- Mikael Wood

"The Resistance"
Warner Bros.
Two and a half stars