It's hard to imagine a more rapturous critical reception than the one poured out for the UK trio Muse on the release of their third album, and Warner Bros. Records debut, Absolution. A representative sampling tells the tale: "Earth-shattering and life saving," declared NME, while Rock Sound joined the chorus with "A sure-fire ticket to world domination," and Bang boasted "A hyperspace jump into the future." While Time Out trumpeted "Sheer, blistering rock splendor," the Daily Mirror declared "Dazzling," and The Guardian gushed "Utterly beguiling."
Rock Sound's quote turned out to be positively prophetic with Absolution topping charts in the UK and France, climbing into the Top 5 in twelve countries including the Netherlands, Ireland, Japan, Switzerland, Italy, Norway, and Belgium, Top 10 in fifteen countries and Top 20 in twenty countriesâ€“ all within weeks of its release. Currently all of Muse's albums are platinum in the UK, and predominantly gold in the major European territories.
So, with all those words and numbers you might well be asking where Muse has been all your life. The answer, if you've been paying attention, has been there the whole time, or at least back to 1999, when the trio released their debut American album, Showbiz. What's happened since conclusively proves that timing is everything, and while Muse has yet to generate the sort of manic sensation stateside that greeted them internationally, the time is now totally ripe for their triumphant return with Absolution .
MuseConsider this: with a recent nomination for Best Rock Group at the prestigious Brits (the UK version of the Grammy's) and a sold out international arena tour that has taken them through Europe, Australia and Japan, Muse arrives in America with an album where, "Every track is built on a gigantic scale," (The Times) and a front and center slot at the year's premier music event, the Coachella Music and Arts Festival.
Not that Muse is out to prove anything. They are, simply and sincerely, in it for the music, and always have been. Hailing from the hamlet of Teignmouth in the picturesque Devon countryside, Matt Bellamy (lead vocals, guitar and keyboards), Dominic Howard (drums and percussion) and Chris Wolstenholme (bass and backing vocals) had known each other since childhood before joining forces as Muse in 1994, performing their first gig at a local battle of the bands after being together one week.
Six years later, on the strength of a series of independent EP's, a growing reputation as an electrifying live attraction and some timely exposure on the influential national British station Radio One, Muse signed in America with Maverick and released the above-mentioned Showbiz. The album helped build initial word of mouth, yet budding Muse fans in the U.S. were only able to hear their second offering, 2001's Origin Of Symmetry, as an import.
By that time the band was already far too busy to let the vagaries of the music business slow them down. "If anything," asserts Wolstenholme, "it brought us back to the basics. We toured pretty much nonstop, selling our records through a series of small deals, country by country, and really concentrating on our live show. Playing for an audience night after night is what kept us and the music true and honest. It gave us an opportunity to grow naturally."
It was an opportunity the trio put to good use after taking a yearlong hiatus in 2002 to regroup and recharge. Already a major musical phenomenon in their home country as well as a dozen other Muse hotbeds around the world, the band could afford to take their time. "We were a lot more focused," Howard explains. "Whereas before we always felt a bit rushed, putting together new songs during sound checks and such, this time we rented a space in London where we lived and worked together for three months. We had time to play out lots of different ideas, do a lot of demos and develop the sound we were after."
While some things may have changed for the relentlessly innovative threesome, others stayed exactly the same. "The songs are always a reflection of what we're feeling personally and what's happening around us," says Bellamy, chief lyricist for Muse. "We didn't do a concept album as such, but a theme did develop, built around a sense of things coming to an end. I think because we're a little older, we've had a chance to experience different chapters of our lives closing and others opening up. It's how you deal with those changes that is at the core of these songs."
With a range that Bellamy describes as "melancholy to hopeful," the fourteen tracks of Absolution, including the single "Time Is Running Out," eloquently express life's inevitable transitions and the elemental emotions that accompany them. But however else the music of Muse may be described, it is quintessentially genuine, the integrated expression of three creatively charged artists whose dynamic interaction makes for some of the most dramatic music on either side of the Atlantic.