It sounded like Muse didn't hang around recording their second album. Not that it's in any sense lo-fi, it just has the breathless energy of a record that was made in a frantic few weeks. Prog rock is the wrong word for what Muse do, that suggests cerebral brain music - their rock histrionics are definitely stuff for the body. Their personality emerged a little further here from their Radiohead-derived roots. Clockwork rhythms, distorted guitar-techno and dirty electronics whirl us along with Matt Bellamy's acrobatic rock voice.
The lyrics he sings are just standard angsty fluff, so they don't lose much by being submerged in theatrical vocal twists, wobbles and falsetto leaps, reaching an extreme on "Micro Cuts". The music is the clear attraction. Their ability to write exhilarating riffs and choruses, hinted on their debut "Showbiz", is confirmed here. All of the trio are quality musicians, and their intricate web of detail becomes clearer on every listen.
Bombast and pomp is as much in their spirit as headbanging techno-punk. "Space Dementia" is introduced with some piano theatricals that could easily have continued into Rachmaninov's third concerto, and finale "Megalomania" is puffed up with a church organ. The quirky accompaniment going in and out of focus makes "Screenager" an underrated highlight, while the jazz standard "Feeling Good" is given a sarcastic-sounding, toe-tapping indie reworking. It's pretty much powerful and absorbing stuff all the way through.
February 5, 2005