After seeing Muse last week with my own eyes, it only makes sense that I am still in a Muse mood. Here, I’m looking at their first live album. It’s not as epic as H.A.A.R.P. but it’s still really good. What makes it even better is that the two-disc set includes one disc full of b-sides that were previously found on their individual singles. If you thought Muse’s best material was only found on their albums, then you’re in for a treat when you hear the b-sides.
Honestly, I think it’s the b-sides that makes this set so tempting. Don’t get me wrong, the live disc is great too because they’re just an amazing live band. Plus, there are lot of songs on the second disc that they no longer preform live, like “Screenager” and “Space Dementia.” Also, if you love songs from their second album, then you’ll be happy to find that most of the live disc consists of songs from that release. As always, the band shows off why they are constantly called one of the best live acts today: they are energetic, intense, and crazy, and that’s just from hearing them live! If I had to pick the best tracks from this set they have to be “Microcuts” and Space Dementia.”
Bellamy’s voice is amazing on “Microcuts” because he sings it a range higher than he normally does. I didn’t even think his voice could go any higher until I heard this song. Of course this means the track just gets better in a live setting and it also shows you he wasn’t bullshitting; he can actually hit those notes. I like this version in particular because he screams between the verses like he’s lost his mind and it seems like he’s really in the moment. “Space Dementia” is the song that made me realize how amazing Muse is. Something about the entire mood with the tragic piano playing and Bellamy’s vocals really makes it something to experience. All of this is tripled when you hear it live and that’s what you get with the version found here. The only thing I don’t like about the live disc is that it’s missing almost half of the setlist from the DVD. To give you an idea, there are eleven tracks on the CD, while there are twenty on the DVD. It’s really disappointing, especially because on the DVD you get more songs they rarely do live like “Uno.” I will never understand why bands insist on giving us half a setlist on a live disc.
But it’s the b-sides here that you keep you coming back for more. There are times when they are more amazing than tracks on the albums. The first disc opens with the eerie and haunting “Forced In,” which was originally found on the Japan only release Random 1-8. It’s more of a mellow track with everything sounding pretty hushed, but what makes it creepy is the effect on Matt’s vocals that make him reverberate like he’s underwater. It gets creepier when he begins wailing and moaning during the bridge with the same effect. The next track “Shrinking Universe” has an interesting dynamic: Matt sounds sweet as he sings, especially when he gets to the bridge and lets his falsetto go, yet the lyrics are so bleak. They seem to be talking about a world that is slowly disappearing and will soon cease to exist. Though it’s a heavy subject, it’s still a really good song.
There are also a lot of intense songs here. Fan favorite “Dead Star” is one in particular that packs a lot of energy and judgment with it’s opening line “Shame on you.” It’s the type of song that when it comes on everyone goes nuts. Another song with a lot of aggression is “Yes Please.” This track has a harder sound with brutal distorted guitars that ring in your ear. Also, you can hardly understand Bellamy as he screams most of the lyrics, which are distorted in the first place. He sounds so anguished here that you think his voice will give out at any second. “Ashamed” follows a similar formula for the vocals. While Bellamy isn’t screaming them, there’s some sort of vocal effect on them that makes him hard to understand. It also begins with a lot of feedback and distortion similar to what’s heard during “Hyper Music.” If you wanted to hear more of bass player Chris, this is the track to listen to. The bass groove is killer here and it shows off his talent very well.
While all of the b-sides are amazing, there are some that stand out for different reasons. “Map of Your Head” is one of my favorites here because it sounds so different for the band. It’s very light and bright sounding with a slight tropical feel with the sound of the guitar. The music just puts you in a good mood whenever you hear it. There’s also one line in particular that’s my favorite: “I hit my head on it and woke up to know/That I was all alone/Wearing just socks and a phone/Someone screaming like their world might explode.” That detail about socks and a phone is just so genius and it adds a great visual to the song.
Another great song is the haunting and heartbreaking “Hyper Chondriac Music.” This is pretty much a stripped version of “Hyper Music,” but with a somber piano riff that’ll bring you to tears and the hushed vocals, the song goes from being incredibly angry to tragic. Matt sounds extremely hurt as he sings the song, as if he just lost someone. When you hear him, it makes you want to give him a hug and say everything will be all right. It’s just amazing that they could turn something so intense and hard as the original to something slow, quiet, and tragic like they do here. You really have to listen to the songs back to back to understand the sheer awesomeness of this track.
Overall, the album gets 8.5/10. It’s a great record to add to your collection, especially for a Muse fan. Not only do you get one disc full of the live Muse experience, where you get to hear their amazing energy and intensity on the stage, you also get a second disc full of the band’s b-sides that can be even better than the album tracks. Really, it’s this disc that sells the album because while it’s not all of their b-sides in one place, it’s a good number of them and it saves you the trouble of tracking down all their singles to get them. If you haven’t heard it, stop what you’re doing and listen to the sheer awesomeness of Muse.