Words fae top Muse fanboy Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)
Without a shadow of a doubt, Muse are one of the best bands the world has ever seen. Whilst the product has tapered off in recent years, the first four, maybe five albums took them from Teingmouth troublemakers to stadium monoliths, selling out every venue from London to Lima. However, is it possible to condense every anthemic stadium filler and emotional sonnet into a list of ten? Well, we’re about to find out. From Showbiz to the unnamed November release which we’re all so… so very excited about… Muse have managed to create some of the world’s most beautiful, symphonic and aggressive tracks, but in the end, there must only be ten.
Sit down, relax, and prepare to loudly disagree with your screen as we take you through the top ten Muse tracks. There are a lot of honourable mentions at this point, because front to back, Showbiz, Origin, Absolution and Black Holes are 99.9% perfect. So if you read this list and feel aggrieved, we feel you, unless you think that something like Something Human or Revolt should be on here, in which case, fuck you.#
10 – New Kind of Kick – Single
Haha you should see your fucking face right now, you chump!
10 – The Handler – Drones
C-C-C-CURVEBALL! Already you are madder, redder and nuder than you have been in your entire life, but The Handler is on this list through merit. As stated earlier, the end product’s fallen off a bit in recent years, but in all fairness, that’s to be expected when you produce four world beating albums, it’s pretty easy for everything that follows to pale in comparison. However, prior to the release of Drones in 2015, the mouths of many Musers were salivating at the glimpses they were being offered, including Dead Inside and Psycho. After the disappointment of experimental-but-experiment-gone-wrong-sound of The 2nd Law, it was exciting to see the band return to a harder rock sound.
One of the standout tracks from that album, was, as you might have guessed, The Handler. Whilst Drones was in place a throwback, The Handler harked back to the very beginning, featuring a heavy handed riff, and a nice fiddly bit in the middle, a bit like In Your World, Showbiz or Stockholm Syndrome. The song is about agents who try to control people, or for a real world example, just being controlled by someone. It’s quite a dark song, but like many of Muse’s best tracks, beauty is found in the darkness.
Of course, this feels like a bit of a left field choice, and you’re very right to have already phoned the police, but think about when this song was released, and how it felt like shaking hands with an old friend in a room full of strangers. The use of a big fiddly solo and Matt’s falsetto is a complete throwback, and should be celebrated as a return to their roots. And how powerful is that final verse with “I won’t let you control my feelings any more // I will no longer do as I am told // I am no longer afraid to walk alone // Let me go, leave me be”? All in all, it’s a classic Muse track from a modern era, and has a powerful, yet dark theme to it.
However, no more curveballs, on with the show, yes?
9 – Bliss – Origin Of Symmetry
Come the year 2001, Muse were still sort of an unknown quantity, especially compared to their stature today. They had gotten off to a steady start with Showbiz, but what would come next would launch them into the stratosphere. With more time and more budget to produce an album, Muse went to the next level with Origin of Symmetry, building on their use of arpeggiated synths, falsetto vocals from Bellamy and took their lyrical theme to the next dimension with hits like Hyper Music, New Born and Plug In Baby.
Another high water mark from that album was Bliss, an upbeat song compared to the majority of the album’s theme. Moving at a pretty fast tempo, the song features arpeggiated synths and piano, and of course, Matt Bellamy’s signature falsetto. It’s a ridiculously positive song, and in the words of Papa Bellamy himself, Bliss “is probably the most positive track, the most truly embracing song. It’s almost in awe of the situation I’ve been given, because it’s a state of mind were you give out everything you have without any need for return”.
Much like most of Muse’s song, Bliss goes to a whole ‘nother dimension when played on the live stage, often featuring an extended intro and riff at the close, it can also feature an ear-splittingly, pant-wettingly good falsetto into the final chorus from Matt. Usually bathing the audience in pink light, it’s the kind of song that makes you bounce ten feet in the air as soon as the first riff breaks through.
8 – Knights of Cydonia – Black Holes & Revelations
THE rock and roll penis extension, THE bombastic stadium rock anthem for dads and lads (plus mothers, daughters and non-identifying relatives), Knights of Cydonia is ridiculous as a song; a spaghetti western and sci-fi thriller, condensed into less than seven minutes. It’s absolutely stupid, listen to the lasers and the clip-clop of hooves at the start, the towering chords and the “Ahhh-ahhh-ahhh!” in the intro, the tremelo guitar. Fun fact, Matt’s father George was in a band called the Tornados, and had a hit single called Telstar, which went to number one in the UK in 1962, using tremelo guitar, which Knights is apparently a homage too. It’s funny actually, Telstar was apparently Maggie Thatcher‘s favourite song, and the funny thing about that, is she’s dead.
On with the show; Knights of Cydonia rolled the credits on Black Holes, and could easily be the closing theme for Muse’s golden era. Arguably the last truly world beating song they wrote, it’s the complete overblown zealousness of this song that makes it so good, had it even been diluted slightly it wouldn’t land with the same impact. Live, it’s a staple song, going from the opener at their Wembley gigs, to a strange mid-set addition, but largely finding its home as a set’s closer, with the big man, Chris Wolstenholme opening with Ennio Morricone’s Man With A Harmonica. It certainly sets the scene for the credits to roll, with Knights being the fucking overblown finisher. However, in doing the research for this piece, it turns out that top ten runner-up Reapers has been dropped for shite-era fodder Unsustainable in recent sets. God is dead, murdered by Matt Bellamy’s er… orthodox approach to music.
7 – Citizen Erased – Origin of Symmetry
Whilst Absolution will forever be Muse’s finest hour, Origin Of Symmetry will forever be the finest hour before. Citizen Erased is essentially a symphony in two movements; the opening of the song is the filthy, apocalyptic riff with melancholic lyrics. Recorded on a seven string guitar in drop A tuning, Citizen Erased is “an expression of what it feels like to be questioned. I spend more time than most people being asked about purpose, and it’s a strange feeling”, according to Matt. Right you are then.
The riff is demonic, almost frantic and uncontrolled. The solo towards the last chorus is up there with anything the great guitar virtuoso Matthew Bellamy has ever done, with his falsetto on point. However, the highlight of the song comes after the bombs have dropped and the dust settles, moving to a gently plucked guitar bridge, finishing with a piano concerto, something that the band are famous for. The lyrics “Wash me away, clean your body of me, erase all the memories, they’ll only bring us pain” are again, right up there in the top ten (hence its place), for emotional and stirring lyrics. The perfect mix of anger and sadness, Citizen Erased is quite strangely, a pretty good break up song.
However, Hyper Music may be better.
Fuck! Hyper Music! Shit! Look out for the Top Ten Muse Tracks That Didn’t Make The Top Ten But Could Be In Your Top Ten very soon!
6 – Fury – Absolution
Does this count as a curveball? Probably not, as you, reading this right now are a pretty hardcore Muse fan, so you’re probably either foaming at the mouth Fury hasn’t appeared yet, or foaming at the mouth Fury isn’t higher up, but you know what chief? Write your own top ten Muse tracks list, and publish it. Everyone’s dying to read your nuanced takes on why Starlight is a top ten track, you CLOD.
Anyway, Fury was originally a bonus track on the Japanese, but, because nothing is sacred on the internet, and Muse fans at the best of times are rabid, bloodthirsty monsters, it found its way into general consumption, and the only question is why a song like this failed to make the cut compared to Endlessly. A somewhat cynical song, dealing with the existence, or non-existence of God, as many songs off Absolution did, the meat and potatoes in this song is in that riff in the middle.
Lyrically as well, Fury is quite strong, especially with the “and we’ll pray that there’s no God // to punish us, or make a fuss” right at the end of the chorus. Whether you interpret the lyrics as one person fearing God for the sins we have committed on this earth, and fearing the rapture, or just a slightly irony boy bit of music that we pray to God that he doesn’t exist to punish us, it’s a damn strong song, and deserves its number six.
5 – Showbiz – Showbiz
Now we’re getting into the tasty places of this list, as we enter the top half of the top ten, the VIP club of the top ten, if you please. The oldest song on this list, by release date anyway, Showbiz was the first light through the cracks, proving that Muse would eventually rise to the very top. A dark and melancholic song, the use of nylon strings on Chris’ bass provided the dull, muted bass sound along with the slowly beaten drums at the start, and the distorted “Controlling my feelings for so long” really add atmosphere.
Many of you will no doubt agree that this is one of Muse’s best, and has stood the test of time, with its addition into 2017 setlists bringing crowds into almost stunned silence, before realising that yes, this is actually happening. The almost manic guitar in the middle and overdriven vocals are absolutely stunning. The song, according to Matt, is about the inner personality we keep hidden from the outside, this could indeed be a reference to actually performing live, and the public persona Bellamy would have to cultivate compared to his, er, normal, self.
4 – New Born – Origin Of Symmetry
Beginning like a lullably, fittingly, before becoming the sonic recreation of the end of the world, New Born is the cream of the crop off of Origin. Probably the song with the longest tenure as a live mainstay, it’s pretty obvious why everyone goes bananas when they hear the first few tinkled ivories. However, it’s all about the big, chunky riff after those tinkled ivories that everyone REALLY goes bananas for.
According to Matt, New Born is “A feeling of not being connected to each other, but we are, and it’s a feeling of the mind evolving from the body, but when that happens you just get this yearn to do something physical and feel something sensational, physical-ness-ness”… which is… a thing… about a song. Yeah. It’s probably best we don’t really take what he says on board.
So we’ve got some Showbiz era keys, some Origin era fuzz and that tremeloed solo in the middle is to die for. It’s frantic, out of control and absolutely fucking beautiful.
3 – Dead Star – Dead Star/In Your World
We’re into the podium places right now, and coming up from behind is Dead Star! Now, think about this, this is the top ten best Muse songs ever, so Dead Star has earnt its place here. Just look at it. This song was heart eyes emoji and drooling emoji and a little bit cowboy hat emoji before emojis were things. Another song that always launches people into a frenzy when it makes sporadic live appearances, it is as angsty as anything, and even as an ageing 25 year old hack, you will jump around your bedroom in a fit of rage when this comes on.
This song, along with its partner on the double A-Side In Your World, was written in response to the 9/11 attacks on America, and is about “how we should be responsible for our individual actions and not blame other people all the time”. The lyrics reflect that, but can also be easily translated into a nice breakup song, if you’re feeling particularly bitter.
2 – Map of the Problematique – Black Holes & Revelations
Really, between this and our number one song, it’s a complete toss up, but Map of the Problematique has to sit just below our top choice. Easily the standout song of Black Holes & Revelations, as well as being one of the greatest Muse songs ever written, Map is a little of the beaten track, with a dancey, arpeggiated riff (which you can read all about here!), and has a very Depeche Mode feel to it.
Written about a faltering relationship, at the time between Matt and his then girlfriend, Map follows the struggle to get things right in the relationship, and the protagonist’s struggle with his inner demons, which interestingly “fear, and panic in the air” relate to Mars’ two moons, something that was a common theme on Black Holes. It could also be loosely related to suicide, following a relationship breakdown.
It’s just… so fucking perfect.
Before we get onto our top, number one, greatest of all time Muse song, it’s time we dole out a few honourable mentions, so cheers to Pink Ego Box, Reapers, Hysteria, Falling Away With You, Panic Station and Plug In Baby
1 – Stockholm Syndrome – Absolution
It just had to be, didn’t it?
Symphonic, heartbroken aggression and the probably what the apocalypse itself will sound like, Stockholm Syndrome is without doubt THE greatest Muse song ever written. Originally beginning as a post-song jam, sometimes after Hyper Music, that opening riff is just simply stunning, and shows Matt Bellamy at the peak of his guitar-based superpowers.
Even the verse, with its stabbed chords sound demonic; at no point does this song let you go, to the point where much like the condition the song takes its name from, you fall in love with your captor. Initially, this song was meant to be quite quiet with the main riff, until cooler heads prevailed and the riff was played on overdriven Manson and synths, with the two being married together.
Allegedly, if the chorus is played backwards, you can hear “You can’t see me, we sneak off. I lost to love. Please … save the night wind and high above, I lost to love. Sing, save”, but does anyone really have the time for that?
Undoubtedly, from start to finish, it’s just perfect. Absolution was the perfect Muse album, and this was the most perfect song appearing on it. Sit back, enjoy it, and let it capture you.