Destined For Greatness?

Destined For Greatness?

"Sunburn" (RealAudio excerpt), the first track on Muse's second album, begins with overwrought

grand piano. Before long, singer/ songwriter Matthew Bellamy begins his

anguished moaning, and then the whole thing erupts into a thrash of measured

feedback and sculpted squalls of sound. As nimble-fingered, serpentine

guitar lines weave in and out of those twinkling grand notes, Bellamy coins

a less than original metaphor to describe the ravaging beauty he can't

escape from: "She burns like the sun/ I can't look away." "Sunburn" ... get

it?

Muse are emotional and bombastic and good

... but they're not quite ready for prime time. Hailed by the British press

as a potent hybrid of Nirvana and Radiohead, Muse sound more like a cliched

hybrid of Nirvana and Radiohead, with a dash of Queen and a pinch of Pearl

Jam thrown in for good measure (Bellamy seems unsure of whether he's more

interested in aping Freddie Mercury or Eddie Vedder for much of the album,

alternating between Mercury's falsetto cries and Vedder's impassioned

screams). Almost every song hews to a variation of the soft/ loud/ soft

formula Cobain and Co. took to such heights; similarly, the orchestral

flourishes and meticulous layering that mark Radiohead's work are in full

force. But while those bands were able to transcend the formulas they

employed, Muse haven't yet succeeded in similarly distinguishing themselves.

But that doesn't mean this isn't a band to watch. Muse's biggest selling

point is their ear for catchy melodies. Whether on the bombastic

"Cave" — which moves from orchestral punk to operatic climaxes in less

than five minutes — the herky-jerky plaintiveness of "Muscle Museum" (RealAudio excerpt)

or the drone-scape of "Showbiz" (RealAudio excerpt), Muse craft edgy tunes that percolate in your

subconscious long after you've turned your stereo off.

Muse's lyrics also stick in your head — not because they're memorable or moving but because they're trite. "Showbiz"

begins with Bellamy muttering about "controlling my feelings for too long"

before his vocals and the music roar into high gear, and "Escape" includes

the refrain "we are unlovable."

If he keeps writing lines like that, Bellamy might have a point. But I

suspect that he'll mature, along with his band's music — all three members

are just a pinch over their 20th birthdays — and Muse likely will, in

time, become lovable.