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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Long Live the Triptych: Five Great Series of Three Rock Songs

Posted By on Thu, Aug 18, 2011 at 6:00 AM

Page 3 of 3

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Muse: "Hyper Music," "Plug in Baby," "Citizen Erased," and "Micro Cuts" (Origin of Symmetry, 2001)

Muse apparently killed it at Outside Lands, but, if you ask us, the band's best days were back in the early '00s with this heavyweight champion of an album.

Although Origin of Symmetry has a long list of excellent songs, its centerpiece is this group of four. Yes, we know, four does not equal three, but the point stands -- the most interesting thing about all of these sets is how the bands toy with track divisions, treating them more like symbolic markers than physical divisions. If that's the case, then the difference between three and four songs suddenly becomes less material.

Here, it all starts with the first few seconds of "Hyper Music" -- the scraping sound of strings that seemingly resist singer and guitarist Matt Bellamy's hands, rattling and sputtering like the engine of an old Chevy before roaring to life. When Bellamy's unmistakable falsetto and Christopher Wolstenholme's brash fuzz bass enter the picture, shit gets real. "You know that I don't love you/ And I never did/ I don't want you/ And I never will," Bellamy howls in the chorus.

The song ends with the same slow sputtering feeling of its beginning, and the distorted guitar fades across the end of the track and into the beginning of "Plug in Baby," slithering and morphing into a catchy-as-hell opening guitar riff. The full sound of Wolstenholme's fuzz bass connects the two songs even more.

Fuzz bass gives way to fuzz everything in the opening notes of "Citizen Erased," where each instrument starts to feel like it's being channeled through Wolstenholme's brain. For over seven minutes, the song veers back and forth between subdued quietude and the song's stomach-punching main riff, ending with Bellamy's gentle, almost whispering vocals: "Wash me away/ Clean your body of me/ Erase all the memories/ They will only bring us pain/ And I've seen all I'll ever need." The final chords -- on piano now -- give way to a strange but soothing loop of noise that closes this song and starts the next, "Micro Cuts."

The first 2:36 of this song hearken back to the quiet-loud-quiet feel of "Citizen Erased," except with the added intensity of Bellamy's insane, operatic falsetto, which he maintains for the entirety of the song. The track's final minute, however, recaptures all of the musical arc of the previous three songs and compresses it -- 30 seconds of build-up, then 30 seconds of all-out havoc.

When the band plays the song's definitive last note, all four songs finally feel resolved, as though each track somehow aspired to this level of intensity but simply couldn't get there until the end of the line. Taken together, this set (a quad-tych?) is a study in building and controlling that intensity until it's ready to explode your speakers, and probably your brain.

(Listen here.)

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