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A Look Back in Time at Muse's Hullabaloo



Welcome back to aMUSEings, the series where we take a look at each of Muse's nine studio albums. This time around, we are going to do things a little differently. Before I review Muse's latest two albums, I want to take some time to look at other works the band has created. Especially throughout the early 2000's, Muse dabbled in creating some of their most diverse tracks to date. Many of these songs were originally planned to be included on albums, only to ultimately be cut for one reason or another. These "B-Sides'' were usually released as singles, but sometimes were bundled together. The best example of this comes from July 1st, 2002. A documentary was released on DVD that covered the Origin of Symmetry tour, and with it included a collection of B-Sides as well as the live performance from October 29th, 2001 at Le Zenith, Paris. The name, meaning commotion, is Hullabaloo

As I mentioned, Muse had recorded several different songs during the Showbiz and Origin of Symmetry era that ultimately didn't make their way onto albums. Most of the new songs on Hullabaloo were played live prior to their inclusion, meaning tracks like Ashamed and Nature_1 have existed since as early as 1997. Yes, some songs from Hullabaloo predate the first Muse album. While this may give some people the impression that these songs would be lower quality, that is simply not the case. The worst part about Hullabaloo is the slightly lower quality of audio due to how early recording took place. Even then, it's barely noticeable. So with that, let's dive into Muse's Hullabaloo


Forced In: Right off the bat, this album starts weird. The track begins with what sounds like a siren, only lower and more distorted. The drums join in, clear as day but still feel slightly off somehow. The acoustic guitar is simple, and isn't even played for the entire song. Little riffs here and there allow for a lack of consistency throughout the song, with the exception of a three note line that repeats. But the highlight here are the vocals from Bellamy. They're distorted as hell, barely audible and hardly understandable. But definitely that isn't a negative, as the weird vocal effect contributes to the atmosphere Muse was going for. He even sprinkles in a little distorted falsetto towards the end, as warping sound effects make it sound like the track is running backwards. Forced In is definitely an interesting Muse song. Not a bad one by any means, but maybe not everyone's cup of tea. 


Shrinking Universe: Another weird one, but this song definitely feels more like a Muse song than the previous track. Shrinking Universe is another one of the underrated gems that often fly under the radar of Muse's greatest hits. Damn shame, as this song absolutely rules. The opening guitar part is funky. The mini riff features a crazy amount of vibrato on the guitar, giving a very unsettling vibe. One of the best parts of Shrinking Universe are the drums from Dom. The beat is almost reminiscent of Assassin, which is interesting considering this song predates Black Holes and Revelations by around seven years. And if you're comparing the drum part of a song to Muse's Assassin, then you know it's really good. Once the vocals begin, Shrinking Universe takes it to another level. Matt isn't quite pushing into falsetto, but don't worry. His vocals are almost strained, still full of energy but with a slight distortion. Almost like he is holding back a wall of emotion, ready to burst at any minute. The lyrics are also some of my personal favorites from Muse. "Cast your ideals onto me, and I'll show you what you really need. Give too much attention, and I'll reflect your imperfections." After the second verse and chorus, "Can't you see it's over, because you're the god of a Shrinking Universe," things get crazy. As the drums and bass build in the background, Matt unleashes his inner demons in full force. The scream that thus results is absolutely insane. Full of energy, power, and crazy high. Just insane that his voice is able to pull that off. Shrinking Universe, like Map of the Problematique, is an underrated gem from Muse. 


Recess: Muse brings out the acoustics with this one. As we have and will continue to see, the songs on Hullabaloo are pretty different from the regular albums. Different instruments, such as acoustic guitar, make far more frequent appearances. The band also got more experimental with the tracks, such as can be seen with the warping siren effect throughout Recess. It's funky, but also fits quite well. It transitions into the chorus, which features some spectacular guitar work from Bellamy. The second guitar solo changes things up quite a bit. It's more intense, more powerful, higher pitched, and has more going on. More chaotic effects join in, with crazy guitar and bass sound effects all over the place. After Matt joins in with some falsetto singing, Recess comes to a close. Another interesting Muse song that adds to the unique catalog found on Hullabaloo. 


Yes Please: Now the band is just having fun. Yes Please is one of few Muse songs to deal with the topic of drugs, but the band definitely took an interesting approach. The opening bass riff immediately starts strong. It's dark, fast, and awesome. Fast paced drums quickly follow, resulting in what feels like an adrenaline rush. Probably what Muse was going for, given the topic of heroin, but still quite fun to hear. They also included clips of hysterical laughter from the band, which follow the lyrics, "Jump on my pleasure pill? Yes Please!" Crazy, off the rails, and all Muse. The vocals are also pretty intense. Matt sings the call of the lyrics, then screams in response. All while Wolstenholme and Howard go crazy on their respective instruments. Despite how much fun Yes Please is to listen to, its hard hitting message about drugs and substance abuse is pretty poignant. I appreciate the theme though, it gives the song a rush that otherwise wouldn't be there. 


Map of Your Head: This song slows things down from the chaos that was Yes Please. The guitar riff is almost happy. It feels uplifting, but almost in a liminal way. The heartfelt lyrics and downer tone of the song ground things. There is supposedly an alternate version of Map of Your Head, which is heavier and closely resembles Hyper Music, but the recording has never surfaced. Personally, I'm glad Muse chose this version instead. It provides a change up from the heavier songs that opened the album, which eventually becomes a staple of all nine Muse albums. Map of Your Head's acoustics are fairly simple in principle, acoustic guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. The simplicity allows Matt and the gang to really go for it though. You can feel the passion behind Bellamy's vocals, as well as the bass and drums. The craziest part of the song is Matt's voice cracking at the 3:00 minute mark, which is both funny and a bit gross to hear. Map of Your Head is also one of very few Muse songs  A simpler Muse track, and a good one at that. 


Nature_1: Originally titled Natural Disaster but accidentally saved as Nature_1, this song serves as a transition from the slower Map of Your Head into another heavy section of the album. The guitar is once again acoustic, only more complex and faster. Considering this song was written no later than 1997, it is very reminiscent of the ending of Black Holes and Revelations. The guitar riff sounds Spanish influenced, just like City of Delusion, Hoodoo, and Knights of Cydonia.  The drums once again sound similar to those of Assassin, giving Nature_1 a beat similar to Shrinking Universe. The lyrics themselves are up to the interpretation of the listener. Personally, they sound like those of Take a Bow. "Like a broken dam you're empty, and all that's left are the sticks and stones that were built by other people. And it really shows. But you aren't even listening because you are just too old to feel an earthquake or too cool to even care. But you aren't even listening, so why should I? You are a natural disaster." It's like the call of action/accusation found in Take a Bow, but combined with other elements of other songs. You could also see it as a breakup song, especially with the second verse. Then, the guitar solo gets quite funky. It's a play on the lyrics, but layered over the acoustic from earlier. The sound is dark, almost brooding as it brings Nature_1 to a close. 


Shine (Acoustic): Opening with sounds of rain and thunder, Shine (Acoustic) might be the most unique Muse track to date. Then again, you could say that about almost everything included on Hullabaloo. There isn't a whole lot to Shine in terms of structure or different elements. It's a peaceful song that feels reminiscent of the ending of The Second Law or even Drones. You can really hear the subtle, and not so subtle, bits and pieces that would shape Muse's later albums in Hullabaloo. The synth part in Shine (Acoustic) also closely resembles the Bliss guitar riff, rising and falling in waves. Matt's singing is as strong as ever, but that's about it in terms of Shine. Nothing outrageously good, but nothing strikingly bad either. A solid middle of the road Muse track.


Ashamed: Hullabaloo just got heavy again. With an intro of ripping guitar strings (Hyper Music style), Ashamed gets things going and going fast. With a riff similar to those belonging to Rage Against the Machine, insanely fast drums from Dom, and another killer bass line from Chris, Ashamed is definitely the most "Muse song" from this album thus far. The different elements are funky, weird, quirky, and work together oh so well. Once Matt's distorted vocals begin, things get even crazier. With themes of breakup and the struggles of a relationship, the lyrics also build onto the atmosphere. "I know that you're ashamed, so emotional that it kills you. Don't you know that you're ashamed? So emotional that it kills you." Good stuff from Bellamy there. The highlight might be the solo, however. Screamin' high notes on the guitar rapidly descend, only to fly back up into the higher register. The outro goes even harder, as Wolstenholme follows the style of the guitar solo on his bass, putting a definite groove into it. Ashamed is funky, heavy, and a great example of early Muse. 


The Gallery: One of few instrumental tracks released by the band, The Gallery features some different instrumentation from Muse. With Matt on the Theremin and piano, this song feels otherworldly. The grainy, distorted radio static/signals at the beginning and end of The Gallery establish how weird this song gets. The main riff, played on the piano, consists of eight repeated notes for almost the entire song. It doesn't get repetitive, though. Matt's idea for this song was not for enjoyment, but rather how he felt inside. The bass from Chris is also noteworthy. While repeated, the bassline makes it sound like you are almost floating on air. It's filled with a sense of wonder, and works perfectly with the soaring sound effects from the Theremin. 


Hyper Chondriac Music: If the title of this one sounds familiar, that's because the ending of Hullabaloo's studio section features an alternate version of Hyper Music from Origin of Symmetry. Both songs feature almost identical lyrics, themes, and instrumentation, but with an obvious change in the tone. Whereas Hyper Music was a song that focused on the anger and frustration of a breakup, Hyper Chondriac Music is instead focused on the sadness and emptiness that follows. Featuring acoustic rather than electric guitar, the energy is definitely lower this time. Dropping the screaming vocals for Matt's lower register, his voice is full of sorrow, pain, and agony. He sounds miserable, as most feel after going through a breakup. This version is noticeably slower than the original, being almost two minutes longer in length. While I personally prefer the original version, Hyper Chondriac Music pairs excellently with the rest of Hullabaloo, and is a great addition to close out the album.


Hullabaloo's biggest strength is how different it is from the rest of Muse's catalog. While a lot is still the same, the wackiness of the different tracks provides a great listening experience. You can also hear a lot of small things that would go on to inspire future Muse albums nearly twenty years later, especially The Second Law and Drones

With no live comparisons for this one, Hullabaloo gets a solid 7/10. Maybe not everyone's favorite songs, but some really good examples of how this band started. 

Next time will be a compilation of other songs from the Origin of Symmetry, Showbiz, and Absolution era. Till next time, cheers. 


 

Sources:

"Hullabaloo_Soundtrack (Album)." MuseWiki, 2020

Lyrics by Matthew James Bellamy


Bio:

Austin Eide is currently a junior at Poudre High School. This will be his first year writing for the Poudre Press. He enjoys playing trumpet in the Pep Band and is also Captain of the Build Team for 159 Alpine Robotics. Austin also loves building with LEGO and making stop-motion movies on YouTube. His blog is dedicated to music, hockey, band, and more!

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