Tag Archives: 2009

Rocks In The Attic #710: Muse – ‘The Resistance’ (2009)

RITA#710I don’t want to read too much into this but Muse were an awesome band when I lived in the UK. Then I left the UK and they went off the rails.

The rot set in with this, The Resistance, their fifth studio album, from 2009. Up to this point, each album saw Muse getting bigger and bigger, their sound solidifying into a massive wall of noise. Rock fans liked them, metal fans tolerated them, and when radio-friendly fourth album Black Holes And Revelations dropped in 2006, suddenly they were accepted by casual pop listeners.

Live 8 - ParisThe writing was always on the wall. When I saw them on their first tour, supporting debut record Showbiz, they wore t-shirts and jeans on stage. When I saw them on their second tour, supporting follow-up record, Origin Of Symmetry, they were still wearing t-shirts and jeans on stage. The next time I saw them, from the comfort of my television set, they were playing the Live-8 concert in Paris. Here, they looked like tour-guides from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

The band had sold out and employed the services of an image consultant. A stylist now chose the clothes they wore on stage.

Don’t get me wrong, The Resistance isn’t the worst Muse album to date. I think that accolade lands safely with 2012’s The 2nd Law, with 2015’s Drones a close second. But The Resistance marks the point where the band starts running out of ideas.

First track and lead single Uprising takes more than a little inspiration from the Doctor Who theme – the first time a Muse single sounded like anything other than a Muse song. United States Of Eurasia finds them channelling Gershwin via Brian May’s signature guitar sound and Queen’s trademark layered harmonies.

But most importantly, the album finds them plagiarising their earlier selves – the march of Uprising sounds like a reprise of Time Is Running OutUnnatural Selection starts off sounding like Plug In Baby and ends up closer to Stockholm Syndrome. It’s all starting to feel very samey.

RITA#710aFast-forward to 2017 and I don’t even recognise Muse anymore. I get promotional emails from them, and it’s hard to take them seriously. Is this an email from a rock band, or a trendy men’s clothes store?

The thought of Muse as a world-conquering rock band seems like such a distant memory. The last couple of studio albums have been mired in a horribly tepid Europop sound. Matthew Bellamy used to write guitar riffs that would genuinely give me goosebumps. Now my default bodily response is to retch at the image of bassist Chris Wolstenholme in a leather jacket stolen from mardis gras.

But…what’s this? Muse have a new record out? And lead single Something Human sounds almost like the classic Muse of days gone by? The artwork for the new album looks terrible – and highly derivative of a lot of things, not least the cover of recent compilation Rise Of The Synths­­ – but my fingers are crossed anyway.

Most importantly, the most recent publicity photo of the band – a moody side-lit shot, no-doubt influenced by Robert Freeman’s With The Beatles cover image – shows that the band are possibly returning to their roots…

Hit: Uprising

Hidden Gem: Exogenesis: Symphony Part 3 (Redemption)

RITA#710b

Rocks In The Attic #684: Them Crooked Vultures – ‘Them Crooked Vultures’ (2009)

RITA#684In 2009, mainstream musical overachiever Dave Grohl teamed up with counterculture musical overachiever Josh Homme, and drafted in classic rock musical overachiever John Paul Jones for a new side-project called Them Crooked Vultures. Their sole output so far, was this, their debut record released in November 2009.

Musically, despite being written by all three principle members, it sounds more like a Josh Homme / Queens Of The Stone Age record than anything by the Foo Fighters or Led Zeppelin. It’s as heavy as anything by QOTSA, and almost gets to Kyuss levels of heaviness on the break in No One Loves Me & Neither Do I. Not surprisingly, it was that doom-laden groove that was used to promote the record when it came out.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that prior to Dave Grohl’s role as the beardy spokesperson of 21st century rock and roll, he was a drummer in a moderately successful Pacific North West punk band. In those days, despite being a gangly youth, he was still a heavy hitter on the drums. Twenty years, one beard and many check shirts later, he’s a much heavier hitter. When I saw the band promote this record in Auckland, Grohl broke a stick from hitting the snare too hard (and I didn’t see that feat happen again until last week, a decade later, by fellow heavy-hitter Ronnie Vannucci Jr. at the Killers’ Auckland show).

John Paul Jones really makes himself heard on a funky clavinet line on Scumbag Blues, and a delicate piano intro on Spinning In Daffodils, but apart from that it’s a pretty straightforward guitar-bass-drums, QOTSA-esque rock record. They’ve hinted at the fact that they might record again, and I really hope that if they do, they feature a bit more of a varied instrumentation and maybe Dave Grohl singing some lead vocals (or at least more prominent backing vocals).

Clocking in at an hour and six minutes, it’s a needlessly long record and I remember that I was quite bored by the end of their Auckland show. I could listen to that groove from No One Loves Me & Neither Do I for about two hours straight though…

Hit: New Fang

Hidden Gem: No One Loves Me & Neither Do I

Rocks In The Attic #384: The Beatles – ‘Mono Masters’ (2009)

RITA#384So the plan was to buy the Beatles In Mono vinyl box set, and then sell the stereo box set that I bought a couple of years ago. That was the plan. But then I got it home – from supporting my local independent record store, I like to add – and plonked it down on my shelves next to the stereo set. I couldn’t split these two up, could I? Not when they’re both so…different.

The differences – both minor and major – are a wonderful thing between these two sets. I do agree that mono is king, especially here when the Beatles contributed to the mono mixes, and left the ‘after the fact’ stereo mixes to the studio engineers. It’s just such an oddity how some of the changes can be so noticeable. For a band known for their high quality control, it’s amazing that the stereo mixes were handled so poorly. People applaud George Martin and the Beatles for being so innovative and forward-thinking. Here, they were largely disregarding an audio format that would go on to dominate the music industry by the end of the decade.

It’s nice to see that they expanded this record into a triple, rather than reduce the running time due to some of the later singles not receiving a mono mix. In place of those later singles, we get some tracks mixed in mono intended for a Yellow Submarine EP that never saw the light of day. As welcome as this is, it does change things slightly – in the past I always say the two Past Masters discs as representative of each half of their career. Past Masters Vol. 2 begins with Day Tripper, recorded during the Rubber Soul sessions just as the Beatles were starting to wholeheartedly reflect outside influences, in this case the Motown sound. On Mono Masters, Day Tripper turns up halfway through the third side.

With the Beatles In Mono box set, I now own the core catalogue three times over (I already owned them all prior to the stereo remasters). Do I need three copies of the White Album? Three copies of Revolver and Rubber Soul? Three copies of Sgt. Pepper’s? Damn right I do!

Hit: She Loves You

Hidden Gem: Hey Bulldog