We're Pretty Sure Muse Is the New Styx
1999 was a weird year. That June, George W. Bush announced his candidacy for President, people were partying like it was the year in question, and a prevalent fear of the Y2K bug spread like Ebola fever. Muse also released their debut album, Showbiz, instantly drawing comparisons to their British contemporaries Radiohead.
Do these guys equal these guys?
That comparison was a stretch, but if there's one band Muse gets likened to these days, it's Queen, especially following the band's latest two albums. Lead singer Matthew Bellamy seems to be going out of his way to emulate Freddie Mercury on everything from Chopin-inspired piano melodies to guitar licks to eerily similar vocal ranges.
Unlike comparisons to Thom Yorke and crew, Muse's Queen similarities are great compliments. Even Queen guitarist Brian May adores the resemblance. Furthermore, Bellamy sounds miles better than Paul Rodgers, who brings to mind an old guy with a mid-life crisis singing karaoke.
But one band I haven't heard Muse compared to is Chicago '80s prog-rockers Styx -- and the comparison is apt.
My dad took me to a Styx concert when I was young teen, probably the most sugary "best of" display I've ever seen. Notably absent from the setlist was "Mr. Roboto" (more on that later) but tears flowed from many faces as "Come Sail Away" and "Show Me The Way" were sung. The stage banter focused mainly on "following your dreams."
Styx are the epitome of arena rock, entertaining crowds of middle-aged folks who flock in the hundreds to relive the music of their youth and be told, just like they were in the '70s and '80s, to "follow your dreams."
Fuck that sentiment. Besides being considerably vague, it's like Barney telling three-year-olds to believe in themselves. It does nothing. Does Styx really expect their audiences to finally wake up and realize their full potential at the ripe age of 40? If they didn't start that novel or paint some landscapes or travel to India when they were 20-ish, I highly doubt anyone will start now with millstones of mortgages, children, and debt around their necks. Maybe they will. I certainly hope I'm wrong. But it's obvious what Styx is selling isn't concert tickets or t-shirts or even terrible cover albums -- they're selling nostalgia, "dreams" and sentimentality.
I know I'm being excessively cynical, but the same thing will probably happen to me in ten, twenty years, only with the bands I grew up with instead. Enter Muse. Before my balls dropped, I was exclusively listening to Weird Al, classical music, and adult contemporary radio courtesy of Mixx 96.9. It wasn't until I heard "Stockholm Syndrome" on The Edge 103.9 that I started to fully appreciate rock music for myself.
It was like an explosion in my soft, sheltered little head, leading me to discover Radiohead, Interpol, Franz Ferdinand and countless other bands popular in the mid-2000's, but Muse was always the cream of the crop for me. I became a Muse scholar, unsuccessfully courting girls with their songs, writing emotive blogs using their lyrics and generally annoying friends and strangers with my vast knowledge of this band.
I was actually afraid of discovering a band that was better than Muse and thus replacing the huge shelf they had taken over in my life. Eventually, I did find bands better than Muse (and quite a number of them) including The Mars Volta, The Dandy Warhols, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, LCD Soundsystem, and The Velvet Underground, but Muse will always hold a special place in my heart.
In twenty years, would I buy a ticket to see Muse and relive those angsty, teenage emotions I played out as much as I played Origin of Symmetry? You bet your ass. Would Muse tell me to follow my dreams? I almost guarantee it. And would I look back at my life, successful or not, and go home with a glossy-eyed new look at the world that would fade as soon as I went to work the next day or slept off my hangover? Sadly, yes.