Thursday, August 04, 2011

Musings on Muse

When I saw Muse's "Uprising" on the Grammys earlier this year, I saw a slick portrayal of revolution in the streets performed by professional dancers and a British band in sequins, backed by an expensive and flashy video/light show. In that context, I found the waving of black flags to be quite cynical. (And ok, news of Matt Bellamy fathering Kate Hudson's baby might have also biased my opinion.)

My impression of that performance was first challenged by this video from the self-titled Spanish Revolution this spring. It was fascinating to see a people's movement embrace the song wholeheartedly (along with V for Vendetta masks and Monty Python!):

Then I had to further challenge my impression of the band when they were added to the LA Rising bill and I heard Tom Morello and Tim C both raving about Muse. The festival was explicitly political, and if members of the only other band that ever mattered think I should listen to Muse, I gotta give them another try.

One problem is that I associate the band with the Twilight movie franchise - they've had a song on all the soundtracks so far.

At the festival - in the historic LA Memorial Coliseum - the band certainly did not disappoint. Their stadium show was full of bombast, lasers, and lights; covering the whole stage; even nods to their influences (AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, and more). It was everything a stadium show should be, and they make a lot of righteous noise for a trio, to boot.

And then when you get into the words behind their 21st century anthemic prog sounds, there actually is some call to action there:

From "Uprising":
Rise up and take the power back
It's time the fat cats had a heart attack
You know that their time is coming to an end
We have to unify and watch our flag ascend

Amid the black flags flying for LA Rising, this song had a whole different impact than on the Grammys.

They closed their set with "Knights of Cyndonia" (yes, that's really the name of the song. now you see why I called them prog):
No one's going to take me alive
Time has come to make things right
You and I must fight for our rights
You and I must fight to survive

Are Muse the next Rage? No. Did they put on a kick-ass show of rock anthems that left me impressed? Yes. Do they have the power to make audiences move their bodies to the sounds of revolution? Yes.

Now if they could only put some subliminal messages in their next Twilight soundtrack offering to make all those Twihards stop fighting over Edward and Jacob and turn their attention instead to the real fights at hand. Or at the very least make them question the saga's heterosexism and ultimate championing of the nuclear family. Sigh. If any band could do it, it just might be Muse.

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