Matthew Bellamy and his fans might be tired of the constant Radiohead comparisons, but the reason many of us have responded so favorably to Muse is because, like Pavlov’s dog, we salivate at even a trifling idea of what Radiohead used to be. The neo-prog rockers’ latest bid for world domination is Black Holes & Revelations, a surprisingly succinct effort that begins with the epic “Take A Bow.” Lyrics like “Our freedom is consuming itself” and “Death, you bring death and destruction to all that you touch” sound melodramatic even to this bleeding heart, and yet it’s impossible not to submit to the song. Unfortunately, calls-to-arms like “Invincible” and “Exo-Politics” are too self-absorbed to register as anything but anthems for the Che t-shirt-wearing contingent, and “Assassin” is too unsubtle to be anything more than a literal appeal to kill Bush and Blair. “City Of Delusion,” with its “you’re not divine” sentiment, would be easier to swallow if it weren’t coming from a megalomaniac. There’s even a reference to “glaciers melting” on the sleazy “Supermassive Black Hole,” which bears a vagina metaphor so preposterous (“Superstar sucked into the supermassive/Ooh, ooh, ahh/You set my soul alight”) that if Bellamy is the “superstar” then the vagina must be British. Then, of course, there’s the actual music: screeching electric guitars that are overdubbed to death, delay-heavy piano, machine-gun-rapid drumming, and massive orchestral swells, all accented by galloping horses, cyclical synth effects, and guitar solos that could have been written by Daft Punk. Black Holes wants to be a political statement but it’s too concerned with where its next ridiculously opulent brass section will fit to be anything more than what it is on the surface: expertly produced arena rock that brings chills from its grandiosity, not its heart. Black Holes is a beast of a record, bombastic in the same way Britney Spears’s In The Zone was superficially sexy. The album is a black hole of pomp and nothingness, a perfect document of the times. So, to fully enjoy it, it’s best to turn your brain off and let yourself get sucked in.
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