NME 1999-02-20 – NME on Muse

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If it was the plot of a new Robin Williams movie you'd be puking in your nachos. There's these three Disney-sweet, doe-eyed Devon kids and their school band, right - devoted young pups determined not to lose their grip on their schoolboy dreams of rock Valhalla. Five years they slog and scrape, painting and decorating by day, regurgitating old fraggle covers in cold local pub backrooms by night until, one day, their fairy godfestival appears in the shape of In The City '98, plucks them from the basement below the deepest pit of obscurity and announces them one of its three glorious champions. And, hey, you'll love the twist. See, then they get a record deal from Madonna for Christmas.

"We were in LA doing a showcase for another record company," singer, guitarist and Muse's central songwriting enigma Matthew Bellamy remembers, "and Maverick heard we were around and asked us to stay a few more days to play for them. We eventually signed the day before Christmas Eve. We got a record deal for Christmas."

Don't you feel sick to the stomach knowing you're labelmates with Alanis Morissette?

Matthew grins. "Not really. They've got The Deftones and I really love The Deftones. The great thing about Maverick is they've only got about 15 acts and they've taken us as a priority. They're not the sort of label who'd drop a band if their first album doesn't sell too well. But we're not corporate at all. We're still independent in this country."

Contrary bleeders, Muse. They (Matthew, drummer Dominic Howard and bassist Chris Wolstenholme) write songs of great depth and import, yet refuse to give even the slightest hint as to their meaning because, according to Matthew, "I let everyone look at them how they want to." They play spooksome, serrated guitar epics, yet onstage behave like demented gnats on top-grade Vietnam nutter drugs. They've signed to Madso's mega-label in America, yet may still sign to Ruptured Tampon

Records worldwide. And they're as allegedly 'corporate' band who refused to play the winner's showcase at In The City because it was too, um, corporate.

"We didn't wanna overdo it, play to a business audience," says Matthew. "And the live thing was a bit of a shambles."

Not so their debut single 'Muscle Museum': the primal howl of a throat lined with razor blades and a soul shrunken from playing every toilet venue in the Honiton district, a mighty noise which could have been cloned from DNA scraped from Thom Yorke's own larynx. Oh, except according to their press release, Muse consider such squalid comparisons to be "lazy journalism".

"It's too easy to say, 'You sound like this, you sound like that'," says Chris. "People don't listen to the stuff enough to really make up their own minds about it."

But you do sound like Radiohead though.

Matthew: "We don't want to get pigeonholed so easily."

Oh come on. If there was a National Sounding Like Radiohead Championship you'd be on the expert judging panel alongside Radiohead and another band who sound exactly like Radiohead.

"We take our influences from a lot of American bands like Nirvana," Matthew asserts. "And, yeah, Radiohead at the time of The Bends were doing new things with guitar music that it's not hard to be influenced by. If that's your opinion, fair enough. I just don't care."

Muse then. Sound like Radiohead. Only better.

Reviewed by Mark Beaumont of NME.

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