Musing on Muse Absolution

I’ve been thinking more about popular music recently, since I realised that I don’t actually get to it in my PhD, and I have done a lot of thinking about theology and popular culture. It’s difficult to take a step back from what I like to listen to, but I guess this isn’t too much of a problem since all of our research interests are precisely that: interests. So, one of my favourite bands, Muse, should probably get some of that interest.

As with New Found Glory, Muse have been a part of my growing up, and I closely relate some of the songs to particular moments or times during that period of my life. In particular, the Absolution album is almost the soundtrack to the sixteenth year of my life! Listening to it now makes me feel sixteen again. And then it makes me feel old. It also makes me wonder how my sixteen-year-old-self turned into me, today, and if Muse had anything to do with that journey. Actually, I can answer that last part pretty easily, yes, they did have something to do with it. The music also had a lot to do with two key relationships in my teenage years, almost like the glue that binds a friendship together: when there was nothing left to say, listen to Muse. I also remember using Muse to drown out the everyday: they are pretty good at drowning stuff out, it has to be said.

The title song of the album, ‘Sing for Absolution’ is slow and haunting. The echoing vocals on top of an exposed and prominent bass in the verses is a great musical reflection of the gloomy lyrics ‘lips are turning blue’ etc. I think it’s ironic, though, musical support comes in the chorus, in singing for absolution. It’s a great soundtrack to teenage years, when you often ‘fall from grace’.

My two favourite songs on the album are ‘Endlessly’ and ‘Thoughts of a Dying Atheist’. The first, because it was one of the first songs I learnt to play on the piano (I started playing when I was 16). I know, it’s easy, and it just goes round and round, but it was a real achievement. Actually, I think part of its musical accomplishment is because the music cleverly reflects the ‘endlessly’ of the  lyrics precisely because of this repetition. With the latter I was fascinated by the lyrics as well as the music. I like the frenetic nature of the music: it really does sound like time is running out.

So not only is my teenage self satisfied with the music in this album, and not only does it bring back memories, but it also satisfies my (now more knowledgeable) musical self. One day I might tell you about the memories…

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