Jules’s Jukebox: Musing about Muse & Politics in the Age of Resistance

When the Lollapalooza line-up was released today, I nearly fell out of my seat at the opening day’s line-up: MUSE, Liam Gallagher (Fuck Yeah!), Tritonal… so many I’d love, love, love to see. But tickets sold out before I could act–and I understand why. What a great way to spend a Thursday–and then catch a game at Wrigley on Friday. Talk about a perfect slide into the weekend.

Seeing the line-up took me back about a decade to when I really fell in love with MUSE. So tonight’s twofer (plus an extra for fun) features a couple of classics from Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme, and Dominic Howard.

“Citizen Erased” by MUSE, from the 2001 album Origin of Symmetry.

The first song I heard from this album was Paul Oakenfold’s remix of “New Born” from the soundtrack to the 2001 Hugh Jackman/John Travolta movie Swordfish. The remix prompted me to seek the original version, which led me to this hard-rocking reverb fest.  Finding this album sparked my interest in the trio from Devonshire, England. The song’s lyrics show Bellamy’s struggle with being constantly questioned by those around him. His allusion to Orwell’s 1984, particularly in the title and the lines “Wash me away/ Clean your body of me/ Erase all the memories/ They will only bring us pain,” remind us all that citizens can be erased and that lies can rule supreme, that innocence can be lost to experience only to be erased back to innocence. (Here is a great blog explaining this song much better than I.) The dichotomy and the dissonance in this song are compelling to listen to.

“Map of the Problematique” by MUSE, from the 2006 album Black Holes and Revelations.

This song continues to display the band’s ability to write layered lyrics that can be seen through a variety of critical lenses. While one person may read the lyrics to this song as being about a man’s inability to move on from a failed relationship, another reads a far more political message (which the band is known for) about war and world chaos that causes us to lose ourselves–like The Lost Generation of WW1. In the verse “Life will flash before my eyes/ So scattered almost/ I want to touch the other side/ And no one thinks they are to blame/ Why can’t we see/ That when we bleed we bleed the same” I can read both of the above interpretations. But my surface reading is this: We wreak havoc on each other, accept no responsibility or blame for our abuses of each other. We want to see the other side’s perspective. We want to reach out to the other. But we have so enabled ourselves that we can only see how right we are rather than find our common ground–that we bleed the same regardless of right and wrong.

“Uprising” by MUSE, from the 2009 album The Resistance.

This song has particular meaning for me right now in light of current world politics–the move toward nationalism, isolationism, authoritarianism. Bellamy has long been a critic of collectivism, but it’s interesting that this progressive liberal finds common ground with his more libertarian views–we both want to be free of mind control and manipulation in an information age rife with propaganda and fake news, kleptocratic rulers, and over-reaching, profiteering, capitalist elitists; we both want the world to be free from tyranny. And if any song is an anti-tyranny song, it is this song. This song is an anthem for resisters. The chorus reflects how when we stand together and rise up, we will win against the tyrants. “They will not force us/ They will stop degrading us/ They will not control us/We will be victorious.”

Ok. I’m throwing a Liam Gallagher song in for fun. Just because I love Liam Gallagher and am anxiously awaiting his new album…

“Rockin’ Chair” by Oasis, the B-side of “Roll with It” (“Roll with It” is from the 1995 album What’s the Story, Morning Glory?, but “Rockin’ Chair” did not make the cut for the album); featured on the 1998 album The Masterplan, a compilation of B-sides not featured on albums. “It’s hard enough sitting there/ Rockin’ in your rockin’ chair/ It’s all too much for me to take/ When you’re not there…” I just love LG’s voice. Here’s to hoping he’ll add more U.S. dates besides Lollapalooza in the near future.

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