Sing for Absolution: Muse’s 10 Best Songs



Always on the pulse of the political, bombastic English trio Muse are coming out with a new album called Drones on June 9. It follows lockstep with 2012’s Queen-ly The 2nd Law and 2009’s paranoid opus, Resistance. Cavorting with Hollywood royalty for a good few years didn’t turn Matt Bellamy into a fluffy writer. In fact, listening to Drones’ lead single, the menacing “Psycho,” it sounds as though he’s dug his heels in even more forcefully.


Muse have spent 21 years building their fortress of laser-precise layered guitars and Bellamy’s arch-angelic vocals. They’ve amassed number-one hits (the blippy R&B of “Madness”) and impressed with classic covers (“Feeling Good”). Here are the 10 best of the best.



10) “Unintended” (Showbiz)


Bellamy’s haunting and sweet delivery shines on this early-career favorite. The touching lyrics are said to be about a depressed person finally feeling hopeful. Many of Muse’s songs have an uplifting effect on listeners, and even from Day One they could coax the soul.



9) “Undisclosed Desires” (The 2nd Law)


Is it hot in here, or is it just Teignmouth’s most wanted threesome? For this slinky number, Chris Wolstenholme slapped the heck outta ‘da bass and drummer Dominic Howard mimicked a randy heartbeat with a computer program. And Bellamy channeled his inner Prince with some of those animalistic yelps in the bridge. Yow!



8) “Starlight” (Black Holes and Revelations)


Muse are equally gifted at creating over-the-top riffs as they are at writing sentimental ballads. In this mid-aughts delight, a piano takes on the lead instrumental role, stepping aside on occasion for Wolstenholme’s driving single-note solo. It’s a heavenly proclamation of love and conquest.



7) “Hysteria” (Absolution)


That bass sounds like an alligator swimming to and fro, just waiting to snap its jaws over some unsuspecting cad. Then, like another predator, Bellamy’s guitar wails like a hawk. The chorus’s call of “I want it now!” is very characteristic of its time, when the Internet started to get faster and information was doled out with machine-gun mercilessness.



6) “Uprising” (Resistance)


By 2009, Muse were fully immersed in their anti-militaristic phase. “Uprising” preceded dystopian films like The Hunger Games by a few years but had that scrappy, fearless aura akin to Katniss Everdeen’s. Bellamy shouts, “We will be victorious!” and right he was. The year after The Resistance came out, Muse became a household name in the United States, headlining major festivals such as Coachella. And Bellamy caught Kate Hudson’s eye. They stayed together for four years and have one son, Bingham.



5) “New Born” (Origin of Symmetry)


Another fabulous piano-and-guitar assault, courtesy Muse’s second album. The scales Bellamy runs in “New Born” are practically on par with Beethoven-- he was classically trained, after all. But MuseWiki attributes the wizardry not to the masters but magic mushrooms. Hey, whatever inspires you, guys.



4) “Blackout” (Absolution)


If Muse can do an ace cover of a Frankie Valli song, they can certainly pay excellent tribute to Frank Sinatra. Ol’ Blue Eyes is said to be the guiding light behind this gorgeous composition, which contains mandolin and orchestral strings. Fittingly, Bellamy would sometimes tack on the traditional “Ave Maria” to live renditions of “Blackout.”



3) “Madness” (The 2nd Law)


An apologetic, sensual song, “Madness” combined George Michael with ’70s melodrama. It’s apparently about one of the sexiest things a man can do for his woman: admit that he’s wrong after an argument. The deep bass and synthetic reverberation suggest a person crawling on his knees, begging for forgiveness. Arise, Muse. We forgive and are grateful for this memorable melody.



2) “Citizen Erased” (Origin of Symmetry)


When Muse turned over their set lists to European fans in 2010, this was often the number one selection. It embarks on so many emotional and sonic twists that it plays like a film. There’s the alternatively tuned guitar intro (a seven-string set to A on the lowest), the screeching disease of the verses and the eventual dissipation of the tension. “Citizen Erased” was later dedicated to WikiLeaks mastermind Julian Assange.



1) “Plug In Baby” (Origin of Symmetry)


One of Muse’s oldest singles remains one of their defining moments. The ascending riff and the croaking, jumpy bass send audiences into hysterics at nearly every show. The origin of “Plug In Baby” goes back to 1997, when an Internet in its infancy was raising Bellamy’s suspicion. Was he a soothsayer when it came to digitalism’s reign? Whether his lyrical paranoia was conjecture or a crystal ball, this stunning work is the crowning glory in an oeuvre of beautiful “Big Brother” pieces.


Image by Gavin Bond

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