Are Muse still any good?
There is an opinion amongst some long term Muse fans that the band is not as good as they once were. Indeed, some quarters would suggest that Muse have not made a good album since 2006’s Black Holes and Revelations.
Regardless of your opinion, it is undeniable that the band’s sound has evolved over time since their 1999 debut Showbiz. The singles released from the upcoming album Simulation Theory sound very different to anything on that debut album. However, this is a trait common to many enduring successful bands. The Beatles, Queen, Led Zeppelin are all examples of bands whose sound changed dramatically over time whilst still remaining recognisably them. It could be argued that had the bands not developed in such a way, then their success would not have been as great.
What first drew me to Muse and led me to buy their debut album way back in 1999 shortly after it was released, was the heavy guitar driven alternative rock sound, and the use of piano. I heard “Sunburn” on the radio, and that was me hooked. The follow up Origin of Symmetry introduced longer more progressive pieces, which I also absolutely loved and made me appreciate the band even more. For me, the 2003 album “Absolution” is where the band’s songwriting really matured to a peak, and remains one of my favourite albums of all time.
Black Holes and Revelations was the album where more electronic experimentation was introduced, the song Map of the Problematique being a prime example. This experimentation continued on further albums, with even a dubstep influence emerging on The 2nd Law. The 2015 album Drones was perhaps more of a return to the heavy guitar alt rock driven roots.
Putting the change in sound aside for a moment, there is no doubt that all the members of Muse are brilliant musicians. Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard are all extremely accomplished on their respective instruments. This has not diminished over time – just the opposite in fact. With every release, the music gets more ambitious and the members have developed as musicians throughout their career. Just because the style of music has changed, does not mean the band have become worse musicians – that notion is ridiculous.
What has happened is that as the style of music has evolved, inevitably some of the initial fans of the music at the start of Muse’s career do not like the music of the band’s later years. No-one has exactly the same music tastes, and the change in style will put some people off while drawing in new fans perhaps not hugely appreciative of the initial sound of the band.
Personally, my preference is for the sound of the band from the first four albums. However, I still love the band and the music they have produced in more recent years. I like to think that as any band evolves their sound, that my tastes also evolve. Sometimes this will be in the same direction, other times not. Whatever direction the band choose to take next, it is clear that they are doing something right: they are one of the biggest rock bands on the planet.
The band’s latest single at the time of writing “Pressure” is perhaps the closest to the original sound of the band out of the recently released singles. To learn how to play it on the guitar, check out my tutorial video here: