Muse – Origin Of Symmetry

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Album Review by Mark Bayross

Early indications that this, the follow-up to the mega-selling SHOWBIZ, would be more than half decent came in the anthemic form of recent singles PLUG IN BABY and NEW BORN. You’ll be glad to hear the album more than lives up to expectations.

Kicking off with the glam stomp of NEW BORN, ORIGIN OF SYMMETRY wastes no time in letting us know that the Teignmouth trio have got even bigger and better than before. The swirling keyboards of next song BLISS are practically understated compared to the rock opera of SPACE DEMENTIA – a hugely extravagant epic that ends in a storm of crashing piano and fizzing electronics.

The intro to HYPER MUSIC hints at the co-production input of Dave Bottrill (dEUS, Tool), evoking the scraped opening to the latter’s PRISON SEX, before launching full-on into a feedback-saturated guitarfest that would have made Kurt Cobain proud. If the song sounds like the Stone Roses on speed, that would be because the other co-producer of ORIGIN OF SYMMETRY is none other than the legendary John Leckie.

After HYPER MUSIC, the rousing PLUG IN BABY sounds almost restrained, well at least until the chorus anyway. However, nothing quite prepares you for CITIZEN ERASED, a brooding, seven-minute long gothic masterpiece of sci-fi rock that sounds like Stabbing Westward fronted by Thom Yorke, Matt Bellemy’s voice rising above the minor chords like an angel above hi-tech chaos. It ends with a Sgt. Pepper-style piano outro, before morphing into the almost hymnal MICRO CUTS, in which Matt pushes his voice as far up against the wall of guitar noise as humanly possible.

Things calm down a bit with SCREENAGER, with its calypso rhythm and Spanish guitar providing some solace from the hyperactive onslaught, while DARK SHINES develops this into a more straightforward rock song, albeit punctuated by a chaotic chorus, while their cover of FEELING GOOD proves the band can play the blues when they want to. The album ends with the rousing MEGALOMANIA, a tempestuous requiem, complete with church organ and choirs. Bloody Hell.

In the hands of most other bands, ORIGIN OF SYMMETRY would be seen as overdone, over cooked and overly ambitious. Not so with these boys. These heights are not only scalable; they are probably working on eclipsing them with album number three.

Cynics may well swipe at the production (admittedly some of the songs make Queen look subtle by comparison), but why can’t a band over-deliver for a change. While the likes of Travis and Coldplay continue to underwhelm audiences from here to Timbuktu, at least with Muse we have a band that understands the word “performance”.

5 stars