Muse, Origin of Symmetry

For four months now I've been listening to this album, waiting for the moment when the thrill wears off, when I realise it's all a big sham, a bombastic slab of recycled '70s rock, rather than a noisy guitar-crunching shrieking wailing exhilarating blast of my god, they've saved rock'n'roll excitement... and I'm not there yet. It's October, and unless someone pulls something extraordinary out of their hi-hat Origin of Symmetry is looking like album of the year.

Who'd have thought it? Muse were, after all, the Radiohead clones of last year; their debut, while certainly good, only hinted at what they've achieved here. In Origin they've blasted free of Planet Telex, shot through the icy amnesiac atmosphere, and landed on the blistering surface of Mercury. That's right: they've reinvented themselves as the 21st century Queen.

What? 'A Kind of Magic' Queen? No, not that Queen: the good Queen; the Killer Queen; the Sheer Heart Attack Queen; the Queen that meant something back when you were fifteen. The Queen that threw everything into the pot, boiled up stews of glam-rock and served them up as opera, laughing. 'Plug In Baby' is Muse's 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.

Which isn't to say that they've switched from one slavish imitation to another. 'Plug In Baby' only hints at the invention to be found on Origin. It's an album that takes Nuno Bettencourt guitars, whacked-out Moog, gothic organs, over-the-top falsettos, fade-ins and fade-outs, big splashing drums, the ambition and megalomania of the '70s best - and worst - there's even a track called 'Megalomania', for Chrissakes - and turns them all into something Big with a capital B, I, and bonus track of G.

It's the album of the year, I tell you: it's this year's Coming Up by Suede; it's 'I Wanna Be Adored' meets Oasis in a Berlin bar; it's The Wall without the teen poetry; it's more fearless and in-your-face than any of them. If rock and roll had been invented in Weimar Germany, it would have sounded like this. It's brilliant, and if I listen to it one more time around my place I'll drive my wife mad.


First published in Records Ad Nauseam, 18 October 2001.
This page: 18 October 2001.

©2001 Rory Ewins