Muse

Though they're huge stars in their native U.K., Muse has never reaped the sort of Stateside success attained by their countrymen in Coldplay and Keane. Black Holes and Revelations, Muse's fourth album, proves why right from the start, when "Take a Bow" opens the proceedings with a dramatic synth fanfare that sounds like a crude genetic splice of Abba's "Mamma Mia" and Philip Glass' score from Koyaanisqatsi. (That's before front man Matthew Bellamy informs the listener that "you will burn in hell" in complicated "Bohemian Rhapsody" vocal harmonies.)

Muse sabotages their crossover potential throughout Black Holes, whether coarsening pretty piano-pop melodies with robot-sex funk rhythms, submitting arena-rock guitars to electronic processing that turns them into products of alien technology or disrupting delicate acoustic ballads with observations that "there's no justice in the world." Of course, all of this is precisely what makes Black Holes such a blast: Muse are pop perverts of the highest order, three absurdly talented players who don't see the sense in wasting an idea (good or bad) when it comes. Their taste for compositional overkill continues to earn them the adoration of prog-rock sympathizers. But when were Yes ever this funny?

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Mikael Wood