Muse at New York Brownies (200004 NME article)

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This transcription may be inaccurate as we have not seen an original copy.

Muse - Very a-Muse-ing

It's not terribly hard to blow away the crowd at Brownies, a speck-sized hipster hole in Manhattan's East Village. Just twist all your knobs up to 11, and the 200 or so souls crammed inside have no choice but to cling to their barstools or their neighbors and pay attention.

But there's still something odd about seeing Muse, in all their arena-rock grandiosity, in a such a downsized venue; it's like watching an anxious leopard pace around a rickety cage. You're fascinated, but you get the feeling that something might not hold. Of course, the fact that Muse are playing a sold-out show in this tiny club, many months after their celebrated signing to Madonna's Maverick label, reveals the obvious: They've gained a toehold in America, but they haven't taken it by storm.

At a time in which commercial radio has been shanghaied by dumbed-down crotch rock and candyfloss pop, any complex, sensitive band billed as "the new Radiohead" has its work cut out for it.

So tonight, Muse make a very loud and very enthusiastic bid for attention. Starting with the trilogy of 'Sunburn', 'Sober' and 'Muscle Museum', they push themselves as far as possible to the rawk end of their spectrum, showing off their tight-as-a-mattress-spring dynamics and an increasing penchant for metallic power chords.

Matthew Bellamy's wonderfully expressive voice - dipping, growling, and sweetly soaring within the course of one verse - saves everything from sliding into spandex-rock territory, but the more subtle elements of their best songs still occasionally get lost.

As you might expect, Muse do the ear-splitting white-noise thing quite well. Tonight's audience, an odd mix of music-biz types and beaming teenagers, is entranced. But a band with such an obvious control over dynamics shouldn't have to steamroller over their more delicate tendencies to get a crowd's attention. Indeed, tonight's few tranquil moments hold most of their fans equally rapt. Here's hoping Muse don't forget that as they make their next bid to conquer the States.

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