EPISODE #1; MUSE, ABSOLUTION
If you know me personally, then I classify it statistically impossible for me to have not mentioned my undying love for Muse around you at some point. Maybe not directly to you, maybe you heard a conversation I was having and I mentioned it. But I love Muse. People who know me well/those who have seen parts of me naked on the internet will know that Absolution in particular is a special album to me.
Yep. I took this photo right after it was done, hence why it's a bit manky round the edges, but there will always be a reminder of how much Muse changed my life, and how Absolution turned me towards a different style of music altogether, inked on my right shoulder. So this importance this album has in my life made it a good place to start.
Let’s rewind a few years. Around the late spring/early summer of maybe 2005/6, I bought Absolution on eBay for about a fiver. For the last few years up to this point, I had been very much in a musical purgatory, if you will. This was back in the day when social constructs such as ‘greebo’ were rife in high school life (do they still exist?), and instead of declaring myself part of one tribe or another, I tried to fit in to all the social groups around me. I convinced myself that I liked both rap and rock, although metal was a no-no. Hell, I didn’t want people to think I was a goth or an emo. “I will NEVER like Slipknot” I said once. How times change.
But really, I had never had a music taste – I just liked some stuff, mostly chart stuff. And now, internet, I would like to share with you my eternal shame. Some people have really awesome albums as their first records. One of my favourite musicians, Brann Dailor (drummer of Mastodon), counts really cool shit like Iron Maiden and AC/DC among his first albums. Me? Vapid pop pretty-boys A1. Oh yeah. Bless you the 90s.
Those guys. Remember them? Technically speaking, they weren’t even my first album. My first was Now (That’s What I Call Music) 48, but as a compilation I don’t count it. To this day I could not tell you another A1 song without Wikipedia. But really, I did not have a cool musical start. The Black Eyed Peas’ Elephunk album was next (actually not a bad album, before they went shit, but still not great), then others I forget/am ashamed to admit. Among those was a fucking Tim Westwood compilation. I thought I was cool. HAH.
So this time went by with me having no strong musical taste, trying to convince myself that I liked lots of different styles I’d barely even heard of – case and point, I heard Slam by Pendulum on Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 show as ‘Hottest Record In The World Today’ and suddenly I loved drum ‘n’ bass. Ahem. But among the band names I’d heard on that show, before I realised I didn’t like Zane, was Muse. Or Mews, as I thought it was spelt. I know, I’m a tool. And I remembered they had a recent album, called…um…Absolution? A quick Google search confirmed, then a quick trip to eBay and a fiver bagged me a copy. And largely, from the point it arrived onward, my life changed. Sounds overdramatic, and it wasn’t instantaneous by any means, but it was a milestone.
Obviously I knew what the word absolution meant, with the connotations of the absolving of sins at the end of the world, so I was thinking “shiiiiit, this is gonna be so dark and heavy and cool”, and so imagine my surprise when I was right. A summary of my first listen goes something like this, as I remember it;
Intro/Apocalypse Please: Is this playing? Oh wait, I hear something. Thump, Thump, Thump Thump Thump. Ooh, intriguing AAAAAHHHHH JEEEESUS that’s loud piano. What IS this?
Time Is Running Out: Cool bass.
Sing For Absolution: This is nice. In a sad way.
Stockholm Syndrome: *headbangs*
Falling Away With You: *gets goosebumps on arms*
Interlude/Hysteria: OH SHIT this is building to something epic. *bass comes in* :O
Rest of the album: :O with varying degrees of spinal chills, particularly during Blackout/Butterlies & Hurricanes/Ruled By Secrecy
Basically, from the first time I heard Interlude/Hysteria, I was hooked. There is so much I love about the album. The heaviness of some songs, the tender, epic beauty of others, and the way they transition perfectly into one another. My favourite example of a transition in the album is between Falling Away With You into Interlude, because the underlying sound of Interlude is there from the second verse. It just runs perfectly underneath the song, providing this dark spine to the song, so that when the rest of the song fades away at the end we’re just left with the fuzzy tremolo before the bassline that everybody knows them by kicks in. It’s perfect.
And so that was the point at which my life began to change really, between Interlude and the ending track Ruled By Secrecy. Whereas before I’d been in the no-mans-land I talked about earlier, I started to develop the taste in music I have now which has had such a huge impact on my life. I fell in love with Absolution, so I immediately set about obtaining their back catalogue, so very soon I had it – at this point, Absolution was the most recent album, so just Showbiz, Origin of Summetry and Hullabaloo – and I was hooked. It was the start of a beautiful relationship.
Absolution is an incredible album; the depth of the apocalyptic concept, the mastery with which every song is constructed, from the soaring classical elements to the straight up rock; it is Muse’s best album, and my joint favourite of all time with Origin of Symmetry (yes, my 2 favourite albums are both Muse). So it is the first album that really began to make me into what I am now. I could not recommend it more.