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August 30, 2006

Black Holes and Revelations: a grower, and a quick one at that

4 out of 5 stars

I listened to this first, as some of you will know from my previous blog post, on my way back from London at the weekend. Driving as I was at the time, I was paying quite a bit more attention to the road than to the CD I had on, by the time the last track had finished, despite thoroughly enjoying the final two tracks – at the time, seemingly joined together into a seamless and fucking awesome 10-odd minute jam – I had labelled this as a grower: there were some good songs, but nothing really stood out for me.

Having had it on at work today, I just want to get back to Leam so that I can play this loudly on my speaker set-up and get the full range of noise on the album. It’s a seriously good album. Every single track had me tapping along in the way that only Muse and a couple of other bands can, wanting to play air guitar, bass and vocals around my office in the most enthusiastic display of appreciation I can muster. Yes, it was a grower, but it’s a really fast one!

In short, this is a fantastic album; I can’t go through each song because I don’t have the time, but it is well worth your money; even the over-the-odds £13.95 I paid for it in HMV is well within my upper limit of £15 for an album. Yes, it bugs me that high street stores will still charge that amount of money for a chart album when they are being grossly undercut by their online rivals, but I picked up a couple of good deals (two Portishead albums for a total of £14, and Barenboim’s recordings of Bruckner’s 9 Symphonies for £25) in the same purchase. Either way, you don’t seem to get anything special for buying the special edition other than a nicer sleeve than the standard plastic, and it seems to cost the same as the standard edition.

The album sees Muse depart from their usual style of writing; there is much less piano-based artistry than on previous albums, but this seems to be the album of Bellamy’s guitar. As has been demonstrated previously (Plugin Baby immediately springs to mind, although it may not be the best example), he is an equally accomplished guitarist as he is pianist. None of this is to say that the synths and piano are missing; they are just used much more sparingly within the context of the album, and this is to their credit. The lyrics are typical Muse, as is hinted at by the title of the album.

If you have heard Supermassive Black Hole already, you will not be disappointed by the rest of the album. I was initially very surprised to hear how far they have strayed from their usual style with this song, and there are so many new influences (Mexican and Cuban are the two most notable) that this could quite easily have become a mish-mash with no real identity. This is not the case; the album just gels in a wonderful display of cohesion between musically diverse styles.

You may well be asking yourself why I’ve only given it 4 stars if I think it is so good. The answer is this: it’s no Absolution. Muse’s last album was just perfect for me; it completely and flawlessly encompassed their musical style, with every song a lesson in good writing. Whilst I do not dislike their new sound and am happily embracing it (see comment about air guitaring), it will take a little getting used to if you are a fan of the likes of New Born et al.

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