“I never understood bands who were only influenced by a narrow era of, say, five years of music. I think younger bands like us listen to more diverse music than previously because it’s so easily accessible.”
Led Zeppelin is a band that is known for its unique style that drew from folk music, blues, funk, flamenco, classical, rock, reggae, middle-eastern melodies and r&b. Underpinning it all was a heavy, guitar-driven sound. Muse is a band that is known to mix styles from electronic music, rock (pop, progressive, hard, heavy, art), classical music, funk, dubstep, flamenco/latin, middle-eastern melodies and opera. Underpinning it all is a heavy guitar driven sound.
“There wasn’t much of an original music scene in Devon and when we started we realised why – because nobody wanted to watch original music. We played gigs to nobody.”
Bass-player Chris Wolstenholme
Before Muse started their quest to conquer the world, their only aim was to be better and bigger than a local funk covers band from Teignmouth called “Doctor Frank”. Matthew Bellamy taught himself slide guitar and piano while listening to Robert Johnson. Like Led Zeppelin, their music has roots to the great blues masters.
They played gigs for five years before releasing their debut album, “Showbiz”. The release of the debut album was made possible after they signed with Australian company “Mushroom Records” for a UK release and Madonna’s “Maverick” for a US release. Then they went on the road for six months. It’s very different to today’s artist, who can release straight away to a global audience. Led Zeppelin financed the recording of their debut album. Like Muse, label after label rejected them.
Looking at YouTube, the song “Unintended” has 14,006,510 views and on the channel “marninahmad” it has 6,846,728 views for a total count over 21.5 million views. “Sunburn” has 7,964,211 views on YouTube while my favourite, “Showbiz” has a combined view count of about 2,500,000 over three different YouTube channels.
By 2001, Muse released “Origin Of Symmetry” and fans of Radiohead gravitated to it, the same way fans of Led Zeppelin gravitated to Whitesnake in the Eighties.
“Plug In Baby” has 11,548,097 views. The Live From Wembley Stadium video of the same song has 7,356,704 views.
My favourite cut on the album is “Citizen Erased”. Diffuser described Bellamy’s vocals as Jeff Buckley fronting a metal band. It’s not as popular on YouTube compared to the more easily digested cross over singles. I love the movement from a heavy rock vibe to a mellow Beatles’esque vibe towards the end. On the YouTube channel of “MrMuseLyrics” the song has 121,446 views. A Glastonbury 2004 live version of the song is on the “SpencerC” channel and it has 153,239 views. A live version at the Big Day Out in Sydney in 2004 on the channel “xfadetoblack” has 273,879 views.
Other songs from the album that have high counts are;
- “New Born” has 14,937,412 views
- “Bliss” has 16,908,982 views
- “Feeling Good” has 28,681,960 views on YouTube.
Then in 2003, “Absolution” came out.
The album cover alone, done by the great Storm Thorgerson (RIP) and taken by photographer Robert Truman was enough to generate interest. You know the cover I am talking about. The floating shadows of souls who are either ascending to Heaven during the Rapture, or descending to Earth, rejected by Heaven.
The album is loaded with masterpieces.
If you are into the conspiracy side of things, then the video for ‘Time Is Running Out’, is all about the Trilateral Commission, an organization of bankers, academics, politicians, union leaders and media and energy CEOs set up in 1973, and whom Matt believed were really controlling the world. On the official YouTube channels, “Time Is Running Out (Official Music Video)” has 12,042,199 views, the “Live From Wembley Stadium” video has 11,692,168 views and the lyric video has 9,617,047 views. In addition, the song has 6,705,367 views on the channel of “Translegomaker”. In total, the song has been viewed 40,056,781 times.
But the piece d’resistance on the album and the reason why I have a lot of time for this band, is because of “Stockholm Syndrome”.
It’s on par with those music store riffs, like “Stairway To Heaven”, “Smoke On the Water” and “Enter Sandman”. It has been copied and used by a ton of metal and rock bands afterwards.
The lyrical basis of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ is from a bank robbery in Stockholm in 1973. Some of the hostages were held for six days and they fell in love with their captors and later defended them at the trial. If you play the song’s chorus backwards, there are internet pages devoted to it that reckon the listener would be able to hear;
“You can’t see me, we sneak off. I lost to love. Please, save the night wind and high above, I lost to love. Sing, save”?
Brilliant, remember when U.S prosecutors alleged that “Suicide Solution” said “Shoot, Shoot, Shoot” when played backwards.
This in turn leads me to the track “Hysteria” which is about obsessive behaviour and it’s got an absolute killer bass line that makes you obsessive. In the process it has accumulated over 27 million views on YouTube.
“The Small Print” is where Bellamy sold his soul in return for supernatural musical prowess, ala Robert Johnson.
Take, take all you need
And I’ll compensate your greed
With broken hearts
Sell, I’ll sell your memories
For 15 pounds per year
But just the good days
And be my slave to the grave
I’m a priest God never paid
Guess, you need to read the small print on every contract, even the ones that the record labels put in front of you.
So how do you follow-up three successful albums where each album outdid the one that came before it?
“Absolution” outdid “Origin of Symmetry” and “Origin of Symmetry” outdid “Showbiz”.
Muse did just that with “Black Holes and Revelations” in 2006. And although it looks like the album made an impact on the sales charts with all of its certifications, that really wasn’t the case. That breakthrough happened with 2009’s “Resistance” which in turn made people go deep into Muse’s catalogue, especially in the U.S market.
To prove my point, the single “Starlight” which has over 44 million views on YouTube was certified Gold in the U.S on OCTOBER 05, 2009, 3 years after it was released. Then in FEBRUARY 27, 2015, the song was certified Platinum in the U.S, 9 years after it was released.
The songs “Knights Of Cydonia” and “Supermassive Black Hole” where also certified Platinum on FEBRUARY 27, 2015. The “Knights Of Cydonia” video has 17,884,385 views while the “Live At Wembley Stadium 2007” video has 16,256,664 views. The video clip on another channel has 15,812,406 views. In total that is 49,953,455 views. “Supermassive Black Hole” has it’s glam rock influences and on YouTube, the “Supermassive Black Hole [Alternate Live Version] has 40,046,796 views on YouTube while the Lyrics video has 13,589,642 views and the live from Wembley video has 8,975,955 views. All up, that is over 62 million views.
In relation to the previous efforts, “Black Holes and Revelations” was their U.S breakthrough album and they did it by condemning the architects of the Iraq war. In relation to sales, the album was certified Gold in the U.S, the same certification that “Absolution” holds. In Australian, the UK and Europe, the album was certified Platinum. Other favourites of mine are “Map Of The Problematique”, “Assassin” and “Exo Politics”.
So in 2009, we got the “Resistance” album, the one that focused on Orwell’s “1984” and written at a time when climate change, politician corruption and the GEC were all dominating the public conversation.
“Uprising” mixes TV soundtracks, with Glam Rock. The “Uprising” video has 83,740,536 views on YouTube. This is the single that crossed over and made Muse’s back catalogue sell.
The “Resistance” video has 46,877,501 views on YouTube. The song was also certified Platinum in the U.S on JUNE 22, 2010.
One of my favourites on the album is “MK Ultra” (a song named after a CIA mind control program from the 60’s). It was used by “MTV Exit” to promote their campaign against human trafficking. That video has had 988,423 views. A lyric video by user “Simona Balan” has 469,517 views. Another lyric video by “MrMuseLyrics” has 390,669 views. An audio version of the song by “21thCenturyRockMusic” has 389,305 views. There are various other YouTube channels that have the song. All up, the song has over 2.2 million views. Tiny compared to the big crossover singles.
“Undisclosed Desires” has 43,370,219 views on YouTube. Meanwhile the same song on the channel “Nitrotigerz” has 8,981,863 views.
The tours started to become massive. By know, Muse had graduated to stadiums. In the past, a band wouldn’t play stadiums if they didn’t a blockbuster album that sold over 10 million in the dominant U.S market.
In 2010 the song “Neutron Star Collision (Love Is Forever)” was attached to one of the “Twilight” films. The video of the song has had 32,928,186 views but what came after is what it’s all about.
“Survival” was used for the 2012 London Olympics, but an Olympic song it is not. It was already written before the organisers approached the band and the attention it brought the band along with the “Twilight” cross over, plus the momentum that “Uprising” generated would send the lead-off single “Madness” from the “The 2nd Law” album through the stratosphere.
In the space of three years, “Madness” has had 72,731,133 views while the “Madness (Lyric Video)” has 14,513,664 views. All up that is over 87 million views. In MARCH 04, 2015, 3 years after its release it was certified 2x MULTI PLATINUM in the U.S
“The 2nd Law”, as an album takes into account the GEC (Global Economic Crisis), Peak Oil Theory, food security, evolution, the taxation proposals of 19th-century economist Henry George and the concept of the “stress nexus”. Matt Bellamy described it as talking about the second law of thermodynamics and how, as a limited ecosystem, we are on the verge of needing an energy revolution in order to sustain the way that we’re living.
“Supremacy (Official Video)” has 15,436,255 views. How can you not get hooked by its marching Kashmir groove in the intro?
“Panic Station (Official Video)” has 8,799,941 views is one of my favourites as it merges the rock/funk grooves in the tradition of “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder and “Play That Funky Music White Boy” by Wild Cherry.
My favourite is the two-part title track ““The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” which has 6,125,511 views and “The 2nd Law: Isolated System”. It’s soundtrack music, up there with the best. The synths, the choir voices, the reporter talking, the orchestral hits, etc… It all combines brilliantly.
In 2015, in came the “Drones”.
“Drones” is Muse, stripping it back down to guitars, bass and drums. Their management team of Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch (yep, the same guys that manage Metallica and AC/DC) suggested Robert “Mutt” Lange (yep the same guy that did AC/DC’s “Back in Black”, Def Leppard’s “Pyromania” and “Hysteria”, Foreigner albums, Bryan Adam’s albums and Shania Twain albums).
The LP kicks off with “Dead Inside.” The Official Music Video has 13,104,415 views and the Lyric Video has 8,640,302 views.
Check out “Psycho” that merges a “Black Sabbath” sludgy groove with classical overtones. It’s a riff that has been around for 16 years. “Psycho” has 24,073,826 views on YouTube.
Then comes “Mercy” that will satisfy the pop fans of Muse, plus it has enough grit to satisfy the rock fans. I will even go out on a limb and call Muse the modern-day Led Zeppelin. The official music video has been viewed 6,650,291 times.
“Reaper” kicks off with a Van Halen “Hot For Teacher” vibe and it has this “Still Of The Night” vibe from Whitesnake in the Chorus, while the bassist is playing lines like “Heart Of The Sunrise” from Yes. Brilliant. All of the songs deal with the main person of the concept story being overcome by oppressive forces. The official Lyric Video on YouTube has already 6,459,743 views.
In “The Handler”, the protagonist decides that they don’t want to be used by others, they don’t want to be controlled, they don’t want to be a cold, non-feeling person. It is the pivotal song where the protagonist wakes up and says that they want to actually feel something and the desire to fight against the oppressors sinks in.
This leads into “Defector,” “Revolt” and the keyboard led song like “Aftermath” with its Claptonesque blues style of leads in the intro. This is where the person tries to inspire others to think for themselves and think freely and independently. When “Aftermath” ends, the person is ready to re-engage and love again.
Chuck into the mix the Morricone themed “The Globalist” that morphs into a “Stockholm Syndrome” style movement that then morphs into an Elton John crossed with a jazz movement and you can see why I call Muse the modern-day Led Zeppelin.