NME 1999-07-10 – Fierce Ponder!

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A concert review in the 1999-07-10 issue of NME, transcribed by paul_nicko of MuseBootlegs.

Fierce Ponder!

Exeter Cavern Club

Not quite as famous as Glastonbury, just 40 minutes up the road, this year’s Exeter Festival is nevertheless rocking to the red-raw sexual voodoo sounds of Roger Daltrey, Toyah Wilcox and The Yardbirds. Pass the smelling salts, Ada. But in a rammed cellar beneath the cobbled sidewalks of this quaint little heritage town, something altogether more savage and ungovernable is screaming itself into life.

They are called Muse and they are going to be huge.

But, hey, don’t just take my word for it. Madonna has already signed this turbulent Teignmouth trio to her Maverick stable in the States after various UK labels turned them down for being “too Radiohead”. Pardon? Isn’t that like being “too beautiful” or “too rich” or “too good in bed”? Doh!

Muse are on home turf in Exeter, so the reception for their opening brace of Nirvana-ish squalls is hysterical. On this evidence you might have them pegged as mere local heroes, a classic Small Body Big Head threesome with singer-songwriter Matthew Bellamy’s tubercular Tom Cruise looks an added bonus.

But then comes current single “Uno”, a feverish torrent of torrid punk-flamenco flourishes wrapped in a barbed-wire lyric of quite unreasonable vitriol. This is the hard stuff alright, but backboned with a majestically unlikely Latino rhythm which only serves to pressure-cook its molten emotional core still further. Both ravaged and ravishing, it’s a killed.

Such stylish quirks are a Muse forte, “Cave” starts off as pulverizing prog-punk but billows out into full-blown rock opera. “Showbiz” rides a circular thrash melody even as Bellamy scales several octaves of strangulated bile. But the centerpiece is the trio’s imminent US debut single “Muscle Museum”, a mash-up of twisted reggae beats, Eastern European string sounds, a volcanically juddering chorus an a boiling geyser of wracked confessional lyrics. Crikey.

There’s more, of course, all buckling rhythms and crackling power chords and soul-dredging falsetto howls whose titles will one day share space with equally trivial life-or-death details on Radiohead and Nirvana in the national pop psyche. At least, that’s how Muse’s future looks from here. There’s too much seething passion here to keep battened down for long, too many fully-formed angst anthems primed to explode. Muse are the sort of band that both mainstream rock fans and tormented romantics will obsess over: ballroom-dancing punk poets with fire in their eyes and grit in their veins.

You’re going to love them.

Stephen Dalton.

See also

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