In a week where Muse’s 6th studio album The 2nd Law hits our eardrums it’s time for another Rank The Albums. As Strictly Reading’s token Muse fan boy I’ve been given the somewhat impossible task of ranking the band’s 6 studio albums in order, I think I’ve been set up for a fall. Well here we go, this Week’s Rank The Albums: Muse.
6 – The Resistance
In at number 6 is The Resistance, in what will be a recurring statement as we go through this list I will say that the album is not without its positive moments, however the album as a whole sees the band’s first ever self-produced effort end up lacking. One of the obvious brilliant moments on the album comes in the form of the 3 “Exogenesis Symphony” tracks which come at the tail end of the album, showcasing one of Matt Bellamy’s most ambitious compositions, piano heavy with an orchestral score on a bigger scale that the band had ever attempted before. Outside of that however that album didn’t really excite or show a new evolution that the band had always strived for with each release. The result was songs that were palatable (Uprising, Resistance, Undisclosed Desires, MK Ultra) without ever being jaw dropping. Often the album felt bloated, with some ridiculous bombast (United States of Eurasisa, I Belong to You) that a good producer may have cut and channelled into more streamlined and listenable songs.
The band’s debut album has its moments too, energetic piano led opener Sunburn still stands up to some of the bands very best work to date. Songs such as Muscle Museum, Cave and Showbiz still sound brilliant next to anything else the band has done. This record is by far the rawest effort the band has done and will ever do, the band seem to give them impression that it’s a bit of an unloved child. It’s not without its moments but in terms of scale it pales a little next to what was to come, not that there isn’t a lot to love. Great song writing is evident in slow burners Unintended and Falling Down, and there’s a lot of raucous energy and riffs to be had elsewhere.
4 – The 2nd Law
In a decision I may regret in terms of abuse (Get involved, I’ve thick skin really… Honest.), in at number 4 is brand spanking new effort The 2nd Law. The band’s 2nd attempt at self-production sees a marked improvement over 2009’s The Resistance. The album also sees a return to the band’s mind set of trying new sounds and evolving, more so than any album to date ranging from more ambitious electronic efforts (Follow Me, Unsustainable), Funk (Panic Station), working with choirs (Survival) and bond themes (no really, listen to Supremacy). The album does fall a little short in the middle with a few uninspiring meandering tracks which spoil the momentum but there’s plenty of interesting ideas and sounds which breathes plenty of life in to the band’s 6th studio effort.
2006’s Black Holes and Revelations comes as a mixed bag, at one end of the scale is incredible electronic opener Take a Bow and the massive sounding epic Map of the Problematique; two standout tracks which have become brilliant moments live. Alongside them are three huge singles in Supermassive Black Hole, Starlight and Knights of Cydonia. Black Holes really had some massive moments that transferred incredibly well to the live stage. Aside from these there are plenty of Muse songs that build on predecessors, which I wouldn’t quite go as far as saying are filler but with the bands wealth of back catalogue at present they don’t quite hold up as well, you can’t quite imagine Muse dropping the beautiful Hoodoo or unrelenting Assassin in to a setlist any time soon.
2 – Origin of Symmetry
Yes, you read it right number 2 is sophomore effort Origin of Symmetry. The album is one that the band have often described as feeling like their first “proper record”, a point probably further reinforced by how few tunes from Showbiz have made it in to their live shows in recent times (reinforcing my previous unloved child comments!). Breakthrough single Plug In Baby features as well as the brilliant New Born, also their now hugely famous cover of Feeling Good. There was plenty of signs of evolution of the band’s sound on the album with the arpeggiated synth sounds on Bliss, to organ led Megalomania on top of more complex arrangements in the shape of Citizen Erased and Space Dementia. The album came as a huge statement of intent from the band and showcased just how much more they had to offer.
Hit singles, massive live mainstays and brilliant album tracks are the make-up of 2003’s Absolution. It was an album that saw the band expand their sound further and lean more heavily on Matt Bellamy’s skills as a pianist and adding some wonderful string arrangements (Butterflies and Hurricanes, Blackout), on top of classic riff heavy Muse tracks (Stockholm Syndrome, Hysteria) and huge sing along choruses (Time is Running Out). Absolution really encompasses everything great about the band with the right mix of their massive riffs, beautifully arranged piano led tracks and brilliantly written songs, packed with ideas without becoming pompous or introverted. I know many Muse fans would probably have Absolution and Origin the other way around but for me, this album was the real exciting evolutionary step for the band that guided the from promising rock band to exciting stadium headliners. The difference between the two really comes down the sheer scale and variety that Absolution has, a real masterpiece that showcases the band at their best sonically and Bellamy at his very best as a songwriter. Tom Brookes