Muse – Duluth, GA – Sept. 4, 2013
With Special Guest Cage The Elephant
Wednesday, Sept. 4 | 7pm
The Arena at Gwinnett Center
Tickets On Sale Now:
at GwinnettCenter.com, The Arena at Gwinnett Center Box Office, or by calling 1-888-9-AXS-TIX.
$59.50 | $49.50
(Plus applicable fees)
Produced by Frank Productions
It’s hard to imagine a more rapturous critical reception than the one poured out for the U.K. trio Muse on the release of their third album, and Warner Bros. debut, Absolution. A representative sampling tells the tale: “Earth-shattering and life-saving,” declared NME, while Rock Sound joined the chorus with “A sure-fire ticket to world domination,” and Bang boasted ,“A hyperspace jump into the future.” While Time Out trumpeted, “Sheer, blistering rock splendor,” the Daily Mirror declared, “Dazzling,” and the Guardian gushed, “Utterly beguiling.”
Rock Sound’s quote turned out to be positively prophetic, with Absolution topping charts in the U.K. and France, climbing into the top five in 12 countries (including the Netherlands, Ireland, Japan, Switzerland, Italy, Norway, and Belgium), the top 10 in 15 countries. and the top 20 in 20 countries–all within weeks of its release. Currently all of Muse’s albums are platinum in the U.K., and predominantly gold in the major European territories.
So, with all those words and numbers you might well be asking where Muse has been all your life. The answer, if you’ve been paying attention, has been there the whole time, or at least back to 1999, when the trio released their debut American album, Showbiz. What’s happened since conclusively proves that timing is everything, and while Muse has yet to generate the sort of manic sensation Stateside that greeted them internationally, the time is now totally ripe for their triumphant return with Absolution.
Consider this: With a recent nomination for Best Rock Group at the prestigious Brits (the U.K. version of the Grammys) and a sold-out international arena tour that has taken them through Europe, Australia, and Japan, Muse arrives in America with an album where “every track is built on a gigantic scale” (The Times), and a front-and-center slot at the year’s premier music event, the Coachella Music & Arts Festival.
Not that Muse is out to prove anything. They are, simply and sincerely, in it for the music, and always have been. Hailing from the hamlet of Teignmouth in the picturesque Devon countryside, Matt Bellamy (lead vocals, guitar, and keyboards), Dominic Howard (drums and percussion), and Chris Wolstenholme (bass and backing vocals) had known each other since childhood before joining forces as Muse in 1994, performing their first gig at a local battle of the bands after being together one week.
Six years later, on the strength of a series of independent EPs, a growing reputation as an electrifying live attraction, and some timely exposure on the influential national British station Radio One, Muse signed in America with Maverick and released the above-mentioned Showbiz. The album helped build initial word of mouth, yet budding Muse fans in the U.S. were only able to hear their second offering, 2001’s Origin Of Symmetry, as an import.
By that time the band was already far too busy to let the vagaries of the music business slow them down. “If anything,” asserts Wolstenholme, “it brought us back to the basics. We toured pretty much nonstop, selling our records through a series of small deals, country by country, and really concentrating on our live show. Playing for an audience night after night is what kept us and the music true and honest. It gave us an opportunity to grow naturally.”
It was an opportunity the trio put to good use after taking a yearlong hiatus in 2002 to regroup and recharge. Already a major musical phenomenon in their home country as well as a dozen other Muse hotbeds around the world, the band could afford to take their time. “We were a lot more focused,” Howard explains. “Whereas before we always felt a bit rushed, putting together new songs during sound checks and such, this time we rented a space in London where we lived and worked together for three months. We had time to play out lots of different ideas, do a lot of demos and develop the sound we were after.”
While some things may have changed for the relentlessly innovative threesome, others stayed exactly the same. “The songs are always a reflection of what we’re feeling personally and what’s happening around us,” says Bellamy, chief lyricist for Muse. “We didn’t do a concept album as such, but a theme did develop, built around a sense of things coming to an end. I think because we’re a little older, we’ve had a chance to experience different chapters of our lives closing and others opening up. It’s how you deal with those changes that is at the core of these songs.”
With a range that Bellamy describes as “melancholy to hopeful,” the 14 tracks of Absolution, including the single “Time Is Running Out,” eloquently express life’s inevitable transitions and the elemental emotions that accompany them. But however else the music of Muse may be described, it is quintessentially genuine, the integrated expression of three creatively charged artists whose dynamic interaction makes for some of the most dramatic music on either side of the Atlantic.
Cage The Elephant
When Cage the Elephant released their self-titled debut in 2009, they were heralded as saviors of slacker funk-punk thanks to their hit “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” The title turned out to be more prescient than they’d bargained for: the band has been battling adversity of many stripes. But the struggles never pushed singer Matt Shultz, guitarist Brad Shultz, bassist Daniel Tichenor, guitarist Lincoln Parish, and drummer Jared Champion off track — they only strengthened the group’s bond and fueled the revved-up roar of its new album, Thank You Happy Birthday, released January 11, 2011. Debuting at #2 on the Billboard 200 Chart, Cage The Elephant launched the new year with a ferocious kick of gut-grabbing rock & roll.
“This album brought me back to life,” says Matt Shultz. “We totally turned away from fear-based writing. We just wanted to make music that we loved.” Cage the Elephant were literally itching to get new music into fans’ hands after spending years promoting their debut, which has sold close to 400,000 copies and spawned three Top 5 singles. In the time since they laid down their first album, the band has done a lot of living — and a lot of growing — and the maturity of their fresh sound shines through on the new album.
The band sketched out 80 song ideas during a nearly two-year stint living in England, but wound up scrapping all the work once they returned to the U.S. and dove into a period of intense musical growth. They listened to the Pixies, Mudhoney and Butthole Surfers and explored ’50s surf rock for inspiration. After two weeks of total isolation in remote Kentucky cabins, they emerged with a fresh slate of songs and a renewed promise to be honest to themselves.
“On the first record I think I was really frustrated and angry at the world and writing about its problems and my frustrations with them,” Matt Shultz says, “but on this record I realized I was part of the hypocrisy. And I was like, wow, I’m a real piece of shit.” On opener “Always Something,” he sings ominously about how there’s “always something waiting for you” over creepy, slinky guitars. “There were a lot of things in my life I was trying to control and it all unraveled in a real bad way,” Matt says. “Because everything fell apart I had to face up to everything. Some songs are a direct attack on myself.”
“Shake Me Down” is packed with explosive loud-quiet-loud interludes that showcase Champion’s skills on a set of toy drums that were expertly recorded by Jay Joyce, who also produced Cage the Elephant’s debut. The guitar riff was actually borrowed from a song Tichenor’s dad had written years ago (“I ripped him off,” the bassist jokes), and the bass line was inspired by the Shins.
One of the band’s biggest goals for the disc — not to conform to a popular sound or look — became a bit of a crusade. “Sell Yourself” is a ferocious, thrashing ode to staying true to their identity despite the pressures of the industry. “Indy Kidz” skewers the pretentiousness of music scenes where everyone just wants to fit in before it stretches out into a trippy jam. And Matt Shultz breaks out his best Frank Black yell to let off steam on “Around My Head” one of several amped-up songs he’s looking forward to tearing apart live during the band’s mind-blowingly energetic shows. (Matt is known for his head-banging, stage-diving and crazy punk-rock antics.)
While Matt says he had plenty of material to draw on — everything from the end of his five-year relationship to watching a close friend self-destruct to feeling frustrated with how Americans are “slaves to advertisements” — at times his lyrics didn’t exactly flow. Brad Shultz cracks up recalling how he found Matt outside the Nashville studio, “Laying in the leaves, like, ‘I need to be inspired!’ “I was trying to generate some sort of inspiration, so I was grabbing leaves and smelling them and smelling dirt,” Matt explains. “I just wanted a sound or a texture or a feel or a smell to generate some sort of memory from childhood.”
Sometimes the studio’s struggles brought the band its greatest rewards. Super-catchy anthem “Aberdeen” required three days of agonizing work. When the band slowed down the chorus, the tune finally clicked and a worthwhile lesson emerged. “It was definitely realizing you don’t always have control of a situation,” Matt Shultz says. “If you want to make something you love it doesn’t always happen the first time around.”
“We didn’t have all the answers on our first album,” Brad Shultz adds. “But we were just like, fuck this, we’re going to write the music we’re going to write. This album was like a breath of fresh air.”