on February 29, 2004
My best friend has been raving about Muse for what must be a year now. He heard them while on a business trip in Amsterdam, and while I never doubted for a second that they were as good as he enthusiastically claimed them to be, not having any readily available proof in the U.S. somehow lessened the impact of his praises. MP3s he supplied to me whetted my appetite, but even those couldn't provide a satisfyingly complete exposure to the music of Muse. So finally after much hunting, I have acquired an import of this album. (I could have ordered it from Amazon, of course, but I enjoy the thrill of the hunt and the instant gratification that comes with finding an intensely-lusted after CD as a result of tireless store-combing.) And lemme tell ya, this album's introduction into my world has been so satisfying it borders on the bloody cathartic. This band, this CD, and--hell--this review are for all of the baffled and bereft, bag-holding Radiohead fans out there. This is for the conflicted, not the fanatical. This is for the enthusiasts who found the transition from OK Computer to Kid A an unexpected disappointment, like waking up one morning to discover that the adorable puppy you bought and bonded with has grown up to become a very tasty looking Belgian waffle or a state-of-the-art washing machine. You feel love for the puppy, and it's because of this now thoroughly confused but still-sincere devotion that you must acknowledge that the waffle smells delicious or that the washing machine is indeed quite remarkably sleek and efficient. Deep down, however, you can't lay to rest the confused thought, "But where is my dog? Wasn't this thing supposed to become a dog? Really, a dog was the next and most obvious step in the puppy-development process. I honestly thought I was going to get a canine companion out of this whole thing. I don't want to sound ungrateful, but I kind of wanted, you know, a dog." Instead of a dog, you got a filling breakfast and something that washes your whites to blinding perfection; instead of the lush, dark, musically vital and rich follow-up to OK Computer, you got Kid A, Amnesiac, and Hail to the Thief. If this analogy actually makes sense to you, then you're one of my fellow dazed and confused compatriots. Musically this album has, to a significant extent, assuaged the sense of incompleteness that Radiohead left me feeling. Absolution has actually weighed down with goodies the empty bag Thom Yorke left me holding. I'm not saying that Muse is just an alternate dimension version of Radiohead, because they are quite clearly their own entity. Nor am I saying that their merit lies entirely in some similarity of sounds. Muse is Muse, and Muse is damn good. Radiohead still has its strengths, and Thom Yorke's excessive solemnity and need for profundity still earn a measure of my respect... but truly, on a basic and visceral level, Muse's music--and particularly this volume of it--give me a little, wild thrill of, "Yes! Yes! There you are! I knew you had to be somewhere, you rascally little puppy! I can't believe you were hiding behind that washing machine the entire time. Still, I'm so glad you're back--and, gosh, you must be hungry! Hey, do you want to split this waffle with me?"