Welcome back to aMUSEings, the series where we take a look at each of Muse's nine albums. As I mentioned last time, Muse have an impressive back catalog of songs from the late 1990's and early 2000's. The biggest collection of these was Hullabaloo, which included tracks from the Origin of Symmetry and Showbiz era. While a lot of these were included on Hullabaloo, a great deal were not. So with that brief introduction, here's a closer look at Muse's early B-Sides.
Most of the B-Sides Muse have recorded came prior to the year 2000, with some as early as the year 1997. The rest were created around the same time as Absolution. The most well known example is Fury, which was only included on the Japanese release of Absolution. Most of the other songs we'll be talking about did not receive the honor of being released on an official studio Muse album. Many more popular Muse songs, like Hysteria and Time is Running Out had B-Sides recorded, which is how we got here. Each and every one of these songs brings something unique to the table. Muse's Golden Era of the early 2000's brought us some of their best works, so let's see how the often forgotten B-Sides compare.
Dead Star: Right out of the gate, Muse brings the metal. Dead Star was recorded as a two part single with another song we will look at shortly. With the heavy guitar opening the song, Muse came out swinging with this one. Matt adds a quick, "Woo!" before the drums and bass begin. Wolstenholme's bass line follows the guitar, but is lower and darker. Then he breaks into the main line, which is just epic. It's more spaced out, but still full of the energy and graininess that defined this era of Muse. Bellamy's vocals match perfectly with the bass, slightly distorted and in a higher register. As the band often did, the respiratory noises from Matt were included in the final cut. This means not only do you hear Matt inhale, but you can hear snarls and spit filled breaths occupy the space between lyrics. Especially noticeable when listening with headphones, it's a little gross but overall works with the rest of the song. Dom's drums are simpler this time, save for a few complex fills here and there. The lyrics are an exemplary example of what I've dubbed 'Angry Muse". "Shame on you, for thinking you're all alone. If you want I'll make you wish you were. Failing to impress. Why can't you sleep with someone who'll protect you, yeah. Harm is coming your way, yeah it's coming your way." They're raw, emotional, and of course full of anger. The reason for this anger might be a bit surprising, but makes sense when you look at the circumstances. In late 2001, Muse were at a recording studio in Boston. Due to the tragic events of September 11th, the band were stuck at that recording studio for a few extra days. Because of this, they recorded a couple songs that were filled with the anger and hostility that had gripped America around that time, hence Dead Star. Anyways, history lesson out of the way, the main guitar riff is filled with distorted high notes. Matt really goes crazy with it, especially during the bridge into the chorus. But when the time comes for the solo, oh man does Bellamy let loose. Right after screaming the last chorus verse, he starts the solo with rapidly ascending notes. These follow the same pattern, reaching the apex of sound before cutting to the outro. A repeat of the intro only with a bass solo from Chris, Dead Star finishes with some great drum fills from Dom and crazy guitar work from Matt.
In Your World: As the other side to Dead Star, the beginning of In Your World sounds completely different from its counterpart. The opening piano part is soft, yet fast paced. It almost feels like Muse might have made another softer style love song, until the guitar begins. It's a varied version of what was played on piano, only heavier and of course way louder. Being one of the shorter Muse songs at only two minutes and thirty four seconds, the band wastes no time with this one. Matt's vocals are rather clear this time as opposed to Dead Star. "I'm hurting you again, too lonely to pretend, like everything is new. I promise you to blow it all away. In your world, no one is crying alone. In your world, no one is dying alone." The message is clear from Muse. In this world you have created, you are the problem. While Matt is singing, he drops the guitar to focus on his vocals. That is until the chorus, where he backs himself up with some heavy guitar to match the singing. With another quick verse and chorus, In Your World comes to a close. Short, sweet, and pure quality from Muse.
The Groove: As the B-Side to Time is Running Out, The Groove had pretty tough competition getting onto Absolution. In the end, it lost out and was relegated to becoming a B-Side. Ultimately, I don't think The Groove quite fits the vibe of Absolution, as the dark, apocalyptic feeling isn't present on this song. Still worthy of a listen however. The opening sounds like a cross between Origin of Symmetry and Absolution, which is fitting for a song written between the two albums. Grainy, distorted guitar and bass with fast paced and high pitched notes immediately set a vibe for this song. A Groove, if you will. Matt's vocals aren't anything crazy for the most part, just some solid singing over the bass and drums. The highlight of The Groove comes in the second chorus, with a hearty, "Wow!" from Bellamy. His grainy voice even cracks a little, sounding like you skipped a heartbeat. With some funky guitar work to close it out, The Groove ends its brief runtime as a solid Muse track. If this song sounds vaguely familiar, The Groove would be revisited by Muse in 2005 and 2006, where it would become Supermassive Black Hole. A neat little treat for hardcore Muse fans who know the B-Sides.
Eternally Missed: Another track that faced heavy competition to make it onto Absolution. Despite being a favorite of Matt's, Eternally Missed lost out to one of Muse's best tracks of all time. After being cut from the album, it eventually became a B-Side to the far more popular Hysteria. As for the song itself, Eternally Missed bears more of a resemblance to Black Holes and Revelations than prior albums, with elements like synthesizer and lighter vocals than those of Absolution. The intro is once again reminiscent of Hyper Music, with scratching guitar strings transitioning into the main song. Most of the track consists of music boxes for the main melody, with Matt's whispery voice on top of everything. The bass from Wolstenholme definitely has some groove to it. The funky bass line actually inspires the guitar solo later on, with a transition from Chris' bass solo into the guitar solo from Matt. The ending of this song features perhaps the creepiest part of any Muse song, with Bellamy's vocals sounding like broken glass. Barely audible, the lyrics, "Chase your dreams away, glass needles in the hay. The sun forgives the clouds, you are my holy shroud," are sung over a slowed music box. Not terrifying at all.
Con-Science: Released as part of the Muscle Museum collection, Con-Science is one of the least known Muse songs. So much in fact, that there are no confirmed live performances of Con-Science. Most likely is the lack of substance for the majority of the track, as the only instruments for the first two minutes are piano and vocals. The piano riff consists of four repeated notes, all spaced apart and slow. These are repeated for the entire song, giving an eerie and uneasy feeling to the listener. Matt's vocals are also quite brutal. He sings in falsetto, but full of sorrow, and grief. Rather than rocking high energy, his words are full of pain and seem to drag on. "I can't pretend. Choose how it ends. Years slipped away, questions here to stay. In soul, in fear. In soul, in fear." Absolutely tragic. After two rounds of lyrics, the distorted guitar and drums begin. Still maintaining the piano riff, the drums begin driving the pace a bit. Without speeding up, you can feel tension rising. As Con-Science builds to the climax, more elements are added. Some are clear, but most are very distorted. Matt's voice gets even higher, pushing his vocal range to the limit. As the elements blend together into distortion, Con-Science comes to a close. Something about this song resonates with me. Perhaps it's the simplicity of the piano riff. It gives Con-Science a special place in my heart. Not a favorite by any means, but a damn good brutal song.
Execution Commentary: This song is just Muse on another level. All of the heart and soul of the band was poured into the two minute, twenty seven second runtime. Starting with a heavy bass line that continues throughout the entire song, Matt then lets loose on a scream. His lyrics are also quite interesting for Execution Commentary. "Ohhhhhhhh-aaah!" Dom then starts going crazy on the drums, giving the track a more metal vibe. Bellamy's distorted vocals continue, with even more insightful lyrics, "(Indecipherable screaming)." Then the guitar riff begins. It's heavy, funky, and represents the best of Muse. After the second chorus and some more screaming from Matt, the band cuts the song to half time. Slowing down the absolutely epic guitar riff gives it drive and power unlike any other song. After some more screaming, the track comes to an end. Just kidding. This is one of the Muse songs where the band was just f*cking around and decided to record it. This song was even used as the outro for Showbiz a couple times at live shows. Jokes aside, I do genuinely enjoy the guitar riff, as well as the overall heavy tone of Execution Commentary.
Agitated: Another part of the Muscle Museum Collection, Agitated is on the angrier side of Muse songs. Overall, the riff of this song sounds like an angrier, faster version of Liquid State. Two fast, hard hitting notes followed by faster, lower notes that repeat throughout the song. With more distorted vocals on top of a crazy bass line, Agitated brings back the theme of toxic relationships that were so prevalent in Showbiz. "You make me agitated, with all the things you´ve hated. But you´re uncomplicated, so why should it affect you, that my loving was so untrue? You do it to me sweetly, to my yeah yeah. You do it to me lovely, to my yeah yeah." After a second chorus, Muse once again goes half time for the outro. The time signature switches to 5/4 time, giving the outro a funky vibe. A shame this one wasn't included on Showbiz, as Agitated is one of the best B-Sides Muse have released.
Fury: Perhaps the best known B-Side from the Absolution era. While favored by Bellamy, Chris and Dom decided to include The Small Print instead of Fury. That being said, the song perfectly fits the vibe of Absolution. It's dark and apocalyptic, full of heavy guitar and bass work with drums that follow suit. The religious undertones are equally present, especially in Fury's lyrics. "Breathe in deep, and cleanse away our sins. And we'll pray that there's no God, to punish us and make a fuss." Similar to Thoughts of a Dying Atheist, these are the thoughts before the end. As the apocalypse nears, this person hopes there is no god to punish them. During each chorus, the bridge into the verse is crazy. High pitched notes descend into the main heavier riff. The heavy lyrics, guitar, bass, and drums, make this perhaps the best B-Side Muse have created. I absolutely love Fury, and it's a shame the band excluded it from Absolution.
While these songs did not find their way onto Muse's studio albums, they still deserve recognition. Obviously no live comparisons this time, but these B-Sides still get a ranking. The Showbiz-Absolution era B-Sides earn an 8/10.
Next time will be a look at the Black Holes and Revelations era B-Sides. Until then, cheers.
"Muscle Museum Collection". MuseWiki, November 1st, 2022
Lyrics Written by Matthew James Bellamy
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!