Welcome back to aMUSEings, where we take a look at each of Muse's nine albums. The year is 2007. Coming off Black Holes and Revelations, arguably Muse's best album, it was time for the trio to get back to work in the studio. The new album, which didn't receive a title until a few months before the release, was to be very different from their previous works. Because of this change, Muse's fifth album is typically seen as a weaker album as a whole compared to the likes of Origin of Symmetry and Absolution. While I tend to agree, this album still offers some of Muse's best songs. With an album cover based on Jon Lomberg's Astroengineering, it's The Resistance.
This album took the band quite a while before it was ready for release. Muse had trouble deciding how to best approach the album's specifics. The general concept was there. Matt, Chris, and Dom wanted more of a symphonic and electronic sound while still maintaining their rocking energy. They also wanted to create "at least one 15-minute space-rock solo", which later became one of the best Muse tracks ever. But nailing down instrumentation, other tracks, and the overall feel for The Resistance proved tricky. Unlike previous albums, none of the songs were played prior to the album's recording. One of the first songs to be finished, at least during the recording phase, was United States of Eurasia. This would be followed by the other ten tracks, resulting in an album clocking in at fifty four minutes and eighteen seconds. This runtime may be surprising due to the small number of tracks on The Resistance, but many of these songs are over five minutes long. Sometimes, this is a good thing, other times not so much. Again, the dip in overall quality from Black Holes and Revelations to The Resistance often leaves many people to simply push this album aside. They choose to not see the beauty, effort, and passion behind this album. That problem is something I will attempt to amend today, with this deeper dive into Muse's The Resistance.
Uprising: Muse opens with yet another of their greatest hits. This song is a politically charged call to action, and also kicks some serious ass. Muse wants their audience to wake up, to see how the world around them really is. Not a mirage or vision created by the government, but how things really are. And that's to say, things aren't great. Government propaganda and cover ups will pop up again throughout both The Resistance and later albums, and honestly create some of Muse's best songs. As for Uprising, the music itself is absolutely phenomenal. The percussion, Dom's drums, make use of one of his best beats. It has power, and drives the energy behind Uprising. With the drums are also two claps, which help sell the call to action nature of Uprising even more. The synthesizer and keyboard intro comes out swinging, and never lets up. The main synth beat is featured throughout the entire song, even during the solo later. The opening lyrics are once again a masterclass from Bellamy. "Paranoia is in bloom, the PR transmissions will resume. They'll try to push drugs that keep us all dumbed down and hope that we will never see the truth around (So come on). Another promise, another scene. Another packaged lie to keep us trapped in greed, and all the green belts wrapped around our minds. And endless red tape to keep the truth confined (So come on)." Backed by Wolstenholme's bass, Matt's synthesizer and Dom's drums, this intro and first verse is outstanding. With each "So come on!" are two high pitched synth notes. This song is practically begging you to pump your fist in the air. Then, Uprising builds into the chorus. The main synth beat is back, perfectly in sync with the vocals. These lyrics are some of the best Matt has written, and are some of my personal favorites. "They will not force us. They will stop degrading us. They will not control us. We will be victorious (So come on)." The transition out of the chorus features some solid bass work from Chris, with his back and forth notes building and eventually continuing into the second verse. After which, another amazing transition occurs. Wolstenholme really gets the chance to shine during these transitions, and the track is all the better for it. The guitar solo for Uprising is also worth noting. It follows similar patterns established by earlier vocals and the synthesizer, but also builds into new ideas. A perfect example of how to write a great guitar solo. For the final rounds of the chorus, the synth sounds similar to the Bliss bass line. Flying up the scale and then coming back down, it adds another layer to Uprising. The outro features Bellamy yelling, "Hey!" with the fading drums and synthesizer. Simply remarkable.
Resistance: Here's a Muse song that often flies under the radar, and is yet another underrated gem. This song is primarily driven by piano and drums, making this a highlight track for Howard and Bellamy. The opening for Resistance is pretty haunting, featuring strange, warped sound effects and dark piano. The drum fill played by Dom also contributes to the spooky atmosphere. Once the piano enters, this song really reaches its stride. Resistance is about holding on to hope and love during the worst of times, and those themes translate perfectly into the music. Matt's vocals are lower and darker this time. Rather than the rocking, high octane style he used during Uprising, it feels like his vocals are more concealed this time. Almost like he is trying to hide something, which fits the lyrics quite well. "Is our secret safe tonight? And are we out of sight? Or will our world come tumbling down? Will they find our hiding place? Is this our last embrace? Or will the walls start caving in?" While somewhat depressing, it once again highlights Muse's ability to apply their music to a wide variety of themes and ideas. "But it should have been right, to let our hearts ignite. Are we digging a hole? (It could be wrong, could be wrong) This is out of control, it can never last (It could be wrong, could be wrong. Must erase it fast (It could be wrong, could be wrong) But it could have been right (It could be wrong, could be) Love is our resistance, they'll keep us apart, and they won't stop breaking us down. Hold me, our lips must always be sealed." These lyrics are so well written and fit perfectly with the rest of the album as a whole. For the outro, Matt does a fall on the guitar, similarly to his intro for Knights of Cydonia. Resistance is similar to Map of the Problematique. Its greatness often gets buried within the other songs from the album, which is truly unfortunate.
Undisclosed Desires: The theme of love continues from Resistance to Undisclosed Desires. But instead of a positive, this time the emotion is slightly more negative. Undisclosed Desires is about dark secrets shared between lovers, and the love that then develops between them. While not toxic, the love described by Undisclosed Desires is certainly different from other Muse "love songs". While this song is usually disliked by some Muse fans due to its more catchy, pop nature, it still works well within the album. The more electronic elements, along with the percussion, give the track an undeniable groove. Chris' grainy bass and Matt's vocals help to capture that energy and run with it. During the second verse of lyrics, you can hear whispers echoing Matt's main vocals. It sounds like a subconscious voice inside the listener's head, which really hits the theme of the song home. Overall, Undisclosed Desires is a solid Muse track. Nothing amazing, nothing awful. A worthy inclusion on The Resistance.
United States of Eurasia + Collateral Damage: For this album, Muse really leaned into the piano. Rather than beginning each song with some crazy guitar riff, many of them open with some piano from Bellamy. It's different, which may turn some people away. This song is a prime example. Stylistically, United States of Eurasia is similar to Hoodoo from Black Holes and Revelations. Starting soft, building into a more rock focused chorus, then coming back down for the end. During said chorus, Matt gets a chance to belt out some pretty intense vocals. While not falsetto, he is still singing with a lot of power and energy. Amazing how this band continues their energy and passion from previous albums into their newer music. As I mentioned, this song comes down from the rock and into the almost melancholy sounding Collateral Damage. A full piano and string outro for U.S of Eurasia, which once again gives Matt the chance to flex his piano skills. He is simply outstanding, and his skills across multiple different instruments are the reason for his greatness. The track(s) end with the sound of fighter jets flying overhead, signaling back to the theme of resistance that is so present throughout the album.
Guiding Light: Speaking of fighter jets, Guiding Light also opens with the same sound effect. It hearkens back to the transitions from Origin of Symmetry, rewarding fans who have stuck around for all these years. Once the actual music begins, Dom's drums immediately stand out. They set the tone for the whole song, and even establish the bass line which is later played by Chris. Add it to the list of songs where Dom's drums drive the power. For the rest of the song, there isn't anything special. The lyrics, while somewhat bland and forgettable, still warrant listening to at least once. The guitar part during the second verse is also pretty special, as Matt flies up and down his custom made Manson guitar. Similarly to Undisclosed Desires, there isn't much to say about this song. Nothing great, but nothing much negative either.
Unnatural Selection: Muse's song naming talents are something to behold. Knights of Cydonia is named after a region of Mars while the song itself features space lasers and horses. Butterflies and Hurricanes, two very different things that work perfectly together, not to mention the back and forth nature of the song. And now, Unnatural Selection. Taking the pre-established concept of Natural Selection, which explains the natural pecking order of nature, and flipping it to no longer be natural. Absolute naming perfection. As for the track itself, this one kicks some ass. When the intro to a Muse song begins with an organ, you know it's about to get crazy. The lyrics are similar thematically to Uprising, calling for a change in the listener. "They'll laugh as they watch us fall. The lucky don't care at all. No chance for fate, it's unnatural selection. I want the truth. I'm hungry for some unrest, I wanna push it beyond a peaceful protest. I wanna speak in a language that they'll understand. Dedication to a new age, is this the end of destruction and rampage? Another chance to erase then repeat it again." After these opening lyrics finish, the guitar comes in. And oh boy, is it epic this time. This song could have honestly come from Absolution, with its dark message and heavy guitar work. For the whole song, so many notes come out of Bellamy's guitar. During the chorus, he even teases with some mini guitar chugs. This song is very powerful, energetic, and combines all the elements of a great Muse song. Fantastic bass work and drums from Howard and Wolstenholme, combined with heavy guitar and vocals from Bellamy. With the length of Unnatural Selection, several sections can be found. Muse have the tendency to do this with the longer songs in their catalog, such as Citizen Erased and Butterflies and Hurricanes. The slow section here is pretty short, but still features some cool guitar and bass work. Finishing out the song in the heavier, faster section was definitely the correct choice, as it allows for the energy to be carried into the next song.
MK Ultra: To start this one, a bit of a history lesson. Don't worry, I'll keep this brief. If you don't know, MK Ultra was a project created by the Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA, during the 1950's and 60's. The goal of this project was to develop substances for mind control to be given to the US government. These would be used on citizens of the US, particularly during interrogations. Not a great look, considering this type of human experimentation is illegal. Anyway, back to Muse. With that background information, this song becomes all the more brutal. The guitar riff here is one of my personal favorites from Muse, and gives MK Ultra tremendous energy. However, the brutality comes in the lyrics. "The wavelength gently grows, coercive notions re-evolve. A universe is trapped inside a tear. It resonates the core, creates unnatural laws, replaces love and happiness with fear. How much deception can you take? How many lies will you create? How much longer till you break? Your mind's about to fall." But just wait, the chorus gets even better. "And they are breaking through, they are breaking through. They are breaking through (We are losing control)." Behind the lyrics are some very intense strings, building the tension to its max. Without the knowledge of what MK Ultra is, this song can just be seen as another rocking Muse track. But if you take the time to learn the truth, it becomes all the more poignant. And that right there, is the message Muse is delivering. Wake up and see the truth.
I Belong to You + Mon Coeur S'Ouvre a Ta Voix: This song usually gets a lot of hate for reasons we'll discuss later. But man, something about I Belong to You is just fun. The piano intro has a groove to it, and Matt's "woo!" in the background definitely contributes to that. Then, he does a piano fall to transition into the first verse. This occurs several times throughout the song, and just adds so much despite being so small. Again, there is an undeniable beat happening throughout this track. So far, this song sounds pretty good. The lyrics are strong, along with Matt's singing. The drums drive the beat here, along with some simpler bass work from Chris. So why the aforementioned hate? Well, the second half of the song features a slight difference; Matt starts singing in French. On paper, this sounds great. And in some ways, it is. Muse have made some great love songs in the past, so why is this a bad thing? It comes down to one specific thing; Matt's pronunciation. To be fair, this trio is English. Singing in an entire other language is not something many bands partake in, so kudos to them for giving it a shot. The vocals themselves are great, no complaints. The words themselves are iffy. Still, the piano and drums throughout this section help redeem it a bit, not to mention the strings in the background. The final verse even features a clarinet solo, which might be one of the coolest parts in any Muse song.
Exogenesis Symphony, Part One; Overture: In the introduction to this article, I mentioned how Muse were workshopping a " fifteen minute space rock solo". Well, they didn't quite reach the fifteen minute mark here, but damn they sure got close. Exogenesis Symphony consists of three parts, and when combined clocks in at twelve minutes and fifty two seconds. Almost thirteen minutes long, and the whole thing is perfect. Overture, the first part, is my personal favorite of the three. The opening strings are beautiful, filled with tension, and set the stage perfectly for what's to come. The strings get louder and more pronounced until the change occurs. Rising and falling, these strings are the most intense thing Muse have released. The energy and power here is through the roof, despite no drums for almost ninety seconds. Then, as if things weren't crazy enough, Matt breaks the falsetto. With the strings to back him, he belts out some incredible notes over some incredible lyrics. "Aping my soul, you stole my overture. Trapped in God's program, oh I can't escape. Who are we? Where are we? When are we? Why are we? Who are we? Where are we? Why, why, why?" Once these lyrics end, the guitar comes in. To start the second verse, Matt just lets loose. This transition is perhaps the best twenty to thirty seconds of Muse's discography. The guitar, strings, drums, bass, and Matt screaming in falsetto all combine into musical perfection. After a repeat of the questioning lyrics, which in and of themselves feature three drum fills straight out of Assassin, the first part fades away into the second. What an introduction to an album closer.
Exogenesis Symphony, Part Two; Cross Pollination: Overture opened the symphony with a rocking, crazy tone. Part Two then takes it down a little, focusing almost entirely on piano. If The Resistance is one thing, it's a highlight track for Matthew Bellamy's piano skills. Instead of fast paced, intense strings, Matt plays his piano with some serious elegance. His vocals are also softer, no longer screaming in high pitched falsetto. After the first verse, the song builds up in intensity. It never quite reaches what Part One accomplished, but that isn't an issue. The severe contrast contributes greatly to Exogenesis Symphony as a whole. While there aren't very many lyrics in this section, the few that do occur are quite well put together. "Rise above the crowds, wade through toxic clouds. Breach the outer sphere, the edge of all our fears rest with you.
We are counting on you, it's up to you. Spread our codes to the stars, you must rescue us all. Spread our codes to the stars, you must rescue us all. Tell us, tell us your final wish. Now we know you can never return. Tell us, tell us your final wish, we will tell it to the world." Believe it or not, but these are the entire lyrics from Cross Pollination. They deliver a clear message, again tying back into the themes of discovery and truth seeking. Once again fading back down for the second and final transition between pieces, Matt takes his opportunity to again flex his skills on the piano.
Exogenesis Symphony, Part Three; Redemption: This is the longest section of Exogenesis Symphony. To close out the song, and therefore the album, Muse brought back the piano and strings. Two of the biggest players in terms of instrumentation for The Resistance, and they kill it here. After a piano introduction, the strings follow Matt's vocals for the entire song. With the orchestra backing him, Matt delivers some heavy lyrics, which are even shorter than those of Part Two. "Let's start over again, why can't we start it over again? Just let us start it over again, and we'll be good. This time we'll get it, mmm get it right. It's the last chance to forgive ourselves". So powerful, so poignant, so beautiful. What a closer.
There is something I have purposefully left out of this review until now. What exactly is Exogenesis? Putting the pieces together from just the three movements leads the listener to gather the following. The subject(s) of the song are looking for answers to life's questions, and to do so are seeking the answers elsewhere. Beyond their limit. These subjects desire the truth, about life itself, and are searching the stars for their conclusions. Whether they are successful or not is up to the listener.
Exogenesis is the theory that rather than beginning on Earth, life began elsewhere in the universe. It then made its way to our planet, thus technically making humankind an extraterrestrial species. It challenges everything we have ever known about the origins of life. Again, Muse are pushing a message. Do not believe everything you are initially told. Get out there, see beyond what people want you to see, and discover the truth for yourself.
Muse performed two of these tracks live during their show in Denver. The first of which was a bit of a surprise. Smack in the middle of the show was Undisclosed Desires. The drum beats and synthesizer intro definitely caught me by surprise, but was very cool to hear live in a stadium. Matt was also pretty interactive during this one, asking "Let me hear you scream!" during the outro. The other song played was Uprising, and oh boy. Hearing that drum beat, the crowd screaming along with the "So come on!" part and the synthesizer was truly unexplainable. Chris's bass was especially on display, and he crushed it. Before starting the chorus, Matt said, "Let me hear you Colorado!" We delivered. The entire stadium, filled with thousands of Muse fans, sang the chorus line perfectly in time. It was loud, yet beautiful. The guitar solo was especially epic. Matt simply let it rip on his guitar, and it was freaking amazing.
While Guiding Light, I Belong to You, and even Undisclosed Desires aren't phenomenal Muse tracks, they still deliver both musically and emotionally. With Uprising, Unnatural Selection, and Exogenesis Symphony all as highlight candidates for the list of greatest Muse songs, The Resistance earns itself a 7.5/10.
Next time around we will look at The Second Law, Muse's take on modern dubstep.
Lyrics Written by Matthew James Bellamy
“PROJECT MK-ULTRA.” Central Intelligence Agency, April 3, 2018. https://www.cia.gov/readingroom/document/06760269.
“The Resistance (Album).” MuseWiki, December 15, 2022. https://www.musewiki.org/The_Resistance_(album).
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 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!